When the cast of the new drama BLACK OR WHITE got together in Beverly Hills last week to promote the film it was instantly clear that they had become a close little family after working together on the project. There were lots of smiles, laughs and jokes talking about their time together on set and the important subject matter of the film. BLACK OR WHITE is the story of a grandfather who is suddenly responsible for bringing up his biracial granddaughter alone. What starts off as a grandmother trying to step up and help raise Eloise while diversifying her life soon, turns into a race fueled custody battle. Academy Award Winner Octavia Spencer takes on the role of this no-nonsense, call it like she sees it grandmother who just wants to do whats best for her granddaughter. When asked how she approached the character she replied:
“Well for me it was, Mike (Binder) did a lot of that work for us, it was on the Page. Great performances begin with great scripts and great directors, and I love working with writer/directors because its their vision there is not a filter you have to go through, you know exactly what their intent is. For me I had to come from a place of what was best for the child and I felt that both worlds were necessary in making a complete child, especially a complete biracial child, feeling complete and loved. So it was kind of fun playing opposite Kevin having our little tension it was really one of the most magical experiences for me because I am a huge, he’s one of, he’s my favorite actor, my favorite actor!”
To which Kevin Costner jokingly added “and that is after having worked with me, we get disappointed a lot in this business.” Director Mike Binder instantly chimed in telling us the story of their lunch meeting to go over the project where Octavia expressed her interest in working with Costner joking “I could have written a phone book and she would have said yes to be able to work with Kevin.” But Spencer swore she really liked the script and it was much better than just a phone book. Spencer wasn’t the only one who feel in love with the script, Academy Award Winner Kevin Costner liked it so much he not only agreed to star in the film but also to finance it, something he hadn’t done since DANCES WITH WOLVES.
One of the most passionate performances in the film was given by the extremely talented and diverse Anthony Mackie. Proving that he is much more than the star of a popular superhero franchise, Mackie plays a hard working tougher than nails lawyer. While he may be related to Eloise and her grandmother he knows that this case is going to be a tough one and he needs to win no matter how low he needs to go. He immediately attacks the character of Eloise’s grandfather by calling out the elephant in the room, the fact the he is white and supposedly doesn’t want his granddaughter being raised by the black people in the black neighborhood. What was a simple custody issue quickly became a race issue with persuasion and confident manipulation. It is through Mackie’s performance and character that race really becomes an issue. While joked about, and probably thought about by most of the viewers, it becomes vividly clear during a courtroom scene where Mackie’s character verbalizes what everyone is thinking but afraid to say. It is something we know far to well in light of recent event sin our country, it is a conversation that needs to be had and it is the exact reason why Mackie was drawn to the project saying:
“It’s funny when I first talked to mike, it was all his idea and focus on how he wanted this character to be played and what he wanted the focal point of what I was saying to be. I was very lucky because I wasn’t there the entire shoot but every day I was there, there was no…this was a very easy movie to make, I have been on movies where stars and Academy Award winners have dismissed and edited your performance so you didn’t show them up. At no point in time did Octavia or Kevin come to me and say, you know what, maybe you should do this or maybe you should change this or this is my moment so play this a little less that. I was very fortunate when I read the script I was really into the idea and behind it 100% because Mike was able to verbalize something that I have been trying to, but I wasn’t smart enough to verbalize it for almost 20 years now.”
With our country in turmoil and there is still a complete division of race BLACK OR WHITE isn’t afraid to tackle those issues head on knowing that there will be some pretty strong opinions once it is seen. It is beautiful when you have a film that not only has outstanding performances but also has a call to action and will affect people, hopefully causing them to live a little bit differently after experiencing this powerful story. Costner, Spencer and Mackie proved that this wasn’t just another job, but a project they were all extremely proud to be a part of, knowing that they would forever be remembered for the issues they tackle in the film. BLACK OR WHITE opens in theatres everywhere on January 30, 2015.