IW: Initially I didn’t [want to take it]. I was approached on Facebook about this project. I said no, I’m not going down this rabbit hole, no way. This would be a disaster for me to be a part of. I told the producers, “You must really want me to run out of the country.” I thought, “I’m not doing this movie.”
But then I read this wonderful message that I received via Facebook that Alexandre Moors had written, and it took me back to maybe the 19th century, when you write letters. We don’t really do that anymore. He had been following my work since Clockers and truly appreciates what I have been trying to do and contribute to film … that got me. That was the hook. After a two-and-a-half-hour conversation and looking at his previous work with him, I was in. I felt enlarged by his work. So I said, even if we fail, we’re going to look good. The film is going to look amazing, and the music is probably going to be hot.
And I was not wrong … We did not fail. We actually told a very complicated story about a very toxic relationship between a father and son. Whether they were biologically connected or not, they were connected through pain.
When I looked at John, my character — a man-child, in my opinion — [I saw a man] with a huge hole in his heart. He was bitter and angry, and his children were taken from him, and that is what we were able to put in the film. John knew how to take this nation down to its knees, to [its] core, and make the whole world think [he’s] an army.
I wanted us to tell this story in a way that people would understand how it got there, without being right on the nose, without dictating, without projecting what we want you to think. We want people to look at it and decide whether this is interesting or not.
TR: This film is centered on the unusual father-son relationship that your character, John, and Lee have. It is packed with intense moments between your two characters. What was one of the most challenging scenes for you?
IW: Tequan Richmond was amazing. You forget that he was on Everybody Hates Chris; it’s completely different! Gone — that was a chapter in his career. Man, I feel like a proud papa.
Throughout the film, every character had a silent intensity. But Tequan, he had more silent intensity then anyone. His character grows up right before your eyes. There is one car scene in particular when everything shifts, a monster is created.