How Idris Elba and Caleb McLaughlin Honor Black Fatherhood in Netflix's Concrete Cowboy

What does it take to be a Black dad, raising a Black child, in a world that sees Blackness as a threat?


While Netflix’s Concrete Cowboy explores the little-known story of Black cowboys in North Philly who operate the Fletcher Street Stables (and still exist today), at the heart of this film is a story of Black fatherhood.

We’ve heard the tale before: Fifteen-year-old Cole (Caleb McLaughlin) acts out and is expelled from school and subsequently is sent to live with his distant father Harp (played by Elba) in Philadelphia. But what is truly captivating about this film and its characters’ relationship is the vulnerability that these two bring to their roles—Cole is a hurt Black boy who (though he might not admit it) deeply wants to reconcile with his dad. Harp, despite being tough-as-nails and resolute, is still figuring out fatherhood. The intensity in the relationship between this father and a teenage son is real—but their most important undercurrent is love.


The love between this pair is perhaps most powerfully depicted in a scene in a dark room where, after a heated argument, Harp explains the origin of Cole’s name. In fact, the movie is so touching that in a previous interview, Elba revealed that he cried after seeing the completed film.

As fatherhood is such a prominent theme of the film, and Elba has been quite vocal about the bond that he had with his father (who he lost in 2013 to lung cancer), we asked the duo: What is the greatest lesson that you have learned from your father?

The Ricky Staub-directed film stars Idris Elba, Caleb Mclaughlin, Jharrel Jerome, Lorraine Toussaint, Cliff “Method Man” Smith and members of the Fletcher Street Stables.

Concrete Cowboy is available on Netflix Friday, April 2.

Afro-Cuban woman that was born and branded in New York. When León isn't actually creating cool videos, she's thinking of cool videos that she can create.