Kelvin Harrison Jr., Jennifer Hudson and Jeffrey Wright Face the True Monster in America

What happens when the actual monster gets to dictate the story? Well, that monster gets to be the protagonist, shift any blame elsewhere and name something or someone else “the monster.” Black Americans know that M.O. all too well, as we’re constantly dehumanized and vilified...even when we’re the victim.

In Netflix’s upcoming film Monster, that very narrative is what the main character—a young Black boy with a promising future—has to navigate.

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The synopsis of the film, via the official Netflix press release sent to The Root:

Monster tells the story of Steve Harmon (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) a seventeen-year-old honor student whose world comes crashing down around him when he is charged with felony murder. The film follows his dramatic journey from a smart, likeable film student from Harlem attending an elite high school through a complex legal battle that could leave him spending the rest of his life in prison.

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Along with Harrison, the film stars Jennifer Hudson, Jeffrey Wright, Jharrel Jerome, Jennifer Ehle, Rakim Mayers, Nasir ‘Nas’ Jones, Tim Blake Nelson and John David Washington. The film is helmed by Anthony Mandler and screenplay penned by Radha Blank, Cole Wiley and Janece Shaffer, based on the 1999 young adult novel by Walter Dean Myers.

As the film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival back in 2018, chronicles the strategic painting of a Black boy as a monster. The Root sat down with Harrison, Hudson and Wright to unpack the true monster in America, asking who—or what, to them, is the monster in America?

“I think it’s greed...originally, the white man’s greed,” Harrison muses. “I think it became these systems of trying to figure out how to get the most power, how to possess the most land, how to possess humans, eventually. I think that the fear of not being number one is why we exist in this capitalistic society today, why Black bodies keep being ignored, abused and killed everyday.”

“Sometimes that monster lives within the system itself, sometimes it lives in the perception of your child when they are not seen in the fullness of his or her humanity,” Wright added.

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Hudson, who portrays Steve’s mother in the film, opened up about her own personal experiences as a mother and how she navigates that in a country that sees her own sons as monsters, by default.

“I was watching one of my son’s favorite shows the other day and it was a narrative in the storyline about how these things happen to young African-American boys,” Hudson recalled. “They were just trying to get inside of their home and the police came, pulled out guns on them and told them to get on their knees. [...] They were 11 (years old)—and my son is 11! I thought that was the perfect moment to stop [turn to him] and say, ‘Actually, what would you do?’ [...] And he was afraid to answer the question. It was uncomfortable. And I understand that’s because he’s like, ‘Why are you asking me that? Why do I have to imagine that?’”

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“Why,” indeed.

Monster hits Netflix on May 7.

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.

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