Reinaldo Marcus Green makes a strong directorial debut with his film Monsters and Men. It’s not that we have not seen this story before, but rather it is the transparent and gritty manner in which the narrative seamlessly depicts the reality of many disenfranchised and marginalized people who are a part of the fabric of America. There’s Zyric (Kelvin Harrison Jr), a good kid, and an even better athlete who is about to step into the opportunity of a lifetime.
BGN recently had the opportunity to speak with Chante Adams (Roxanne, Roxanne) and Kelvin Harrison, Jr. (Birth of A Nation) of the new film Monsters and Men. Adams plays Zoe, a liberated poetess and social activist who uses her voice to bring awareness to the injustices happening within the community. Harrison plays a good kid and a promising athlete who has gained the interest of several top sports agents. Through Zyric and Zoe, Green delicately depicts the benefits and possible consequences of embracing social justice activism.
In the film, you play a poetess and social activist. How important is it for artists or influencers to use their platform to influence social change?
Adams: I think that it is very important. That’s why you have a platform…to be able to stand up for others and fight for justice and encourage other people. I look at people like Amanda Seales and Angela Rye. They are celebrities, but they are women who are passionate about what they believe in.
Harrison: I believe in what Nina Simone said, that art should reflect the times. I believe that if we’re doing that, and honoring our work, the platform will speak for itself. It’s important to speak out because a lot of people do live in fear.
Chante, there was a scene where you were reciting a poem, and a portion of it stated, “White shirts and ties…all lies.” Do you think that there is a correlation between privilege and jail sentencing?
Adams: Oh, absolutely. Look at what’s happening in America today?
Do you think that Zyric’s timing for wanting to protest the social injustices in his community were untimely or inappropriate?
Harrison: I think he’s thinking about what feels right, in the moment. That’s kind of what we all need to do, right? We shouldn’t have to choose between our social rights and our careers.
In what ways are you similar to Zyric?
Harrison: Like Zyric, I am still finding my truth as it pertains to activism. I am living the life that I need to live, and I am discovering the things that I need to discover. Like Zyric who is at a turning point in his life, I too am just walking it out. There’s this parallel that we have, the character and I.
In the film, you are strong, assertive and bold. How do you identify with Zoe?
Adams: I was inspired by Zoe. Zoe opened my eyes to so much. I wanted to be like her. I want to be someone that will use my voice for the people who could not use there’s. I want to be that person that inspires others to stand up for what they believe.
In the film, Zyric has a loving, supportive father who’s counting on him to make it. How do you feel about that dynamic?
Harrison: I think it’s beautiful and, and it propels the next generation forward and gives us a greater opportunity. But at what cost? If we’re starting to feel like we’re living for them. Living as if we’re to provide for something that they wanted us to achieve, and not following our own voice and heart. To an extent, it’s like a doubled edged sword. It’s like we’re winning and the losing at the same time. If we’re trying to fulfill the dreams of the previous generation.
Should millennials continue to hold the torch for the pains of the past?
Harrison: You see it a lot, especially amongst new millennials and young people who are now getting access to more resources and opportunities. There’s, you know, there are still parts of culture and society where people are still very angry and holding onto that bitterness, and then you have more progressive thinking.
Adams: Once you realize that the pain from this country’s past is still there, I think that the first step is to let go.
Harrison: I agree with Chante. At some point, you have to let go, and embrace your new future. I think we see that in Zyric.
Thank you so much for your time.
Adams: Thank you so much.
Harrison: Yes, thank you.
The Monsters and Men film opens nationwide on September 28th, 2018.
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Lynnette Nicholas is a NYC based writer, freelance journalist and voice actress. She writes about: women, black women, parenting, faith and pop culture. You can find her on Twitter posting inspirational content for women and young girls (@truelylynnette), or Instagramming (@lynnettenicholas).