The film Overlord was nothing at all like I expected. I think I was looking for something campier, more Stan Against Evil. What I got was a Saving Private Ryan type of film that mixes in a bit of Temple of Doom and Night of the Living Dead. That’s Overlord. The film is full of standout performances, explorations of important tropes, and attention to history that is very respectful for a monster flick. One of the most surprising elements is that the film centers on a Black WWII soldier, Private Boyce. Played by Jovan Adepo, Boyce stands out as the character who is purest of heart, yet the greenest member of the squad. He is the least likely hero if I had to pick one from the film. But, he works to guide the audience through the onscreen terrors of war, and science.
BGN got to chat with Adepo to learn more about Boyce and the film’s strict yet dutiful adherence to D-Day history. He shed some light on the character while giving us another reason to watch the film when it premieres November 9.
How familiar were you with the whole horror zombie monster genre?
I’ve always watched horror films. Just being involved with horror mixed with drama and everything, it wasn’t something that I necessarily prepared for. I just wanted to focus specifically on the character that I was playing. How he would be, I guess, navigating through this world he finds himself in.
Can you talk to us a little bit about the character?
I think I really am just naturally drawn to, and I find a really strong interest in, playing underdogs. Just people in general who are just set out on trying to prove their worth to the people around them. I think that was the initial thing that really interested me about Boyce and playing Boyce was that he’s a young man who’s incredibly capable of doing great things in his life. But before he can prove it to anyone else, he has to prove it to himself.
Just me trying to play a character who’s not naïve, but just incredibly open to everything that he experiences and tries to adapt to is just, I guess, just the through lines that I try to maintain while I’m playing Boyce.
Was that something that you had to become well versed on is the history of D-Day. Did you have to do some homework?
We had to do a bit of homework. I think it’s very clear that this film takes some creative liberties. Simply because during that time, we didn’t have an integrated military at that point. Basically, Black folks weren’t allowed to fight together with white people. What was important, that I had to understand when I got the part, was that we weren’t trying to create a direct historical account of the Second World War. You know what I mean?
We have projects out there already that have done that. We have the Saving Private Ryan‘s and we have the Band of Brothers and things of that sort. Bad Robot and Paramount have been working really hard developing a story that takes place in the historical setting but is not a direct retelling.
It’s just a reimagining of the time and it’s purely about these specific characters that are going through these circumstances and they just basically have the rug pulled from under them. We based everything in as much realism and historical accuracy as we could as far as the company names and the patches that the 101st Airborne, the patches that they wore and everything like that.
Everything like that is exact as it should be. But as far as the characters, these are fictional characters that are navigating through a very real moment in American history.
What about making the center of this film an African American soldier in World War II. Was that something that was initially part of the movie or is that something that kinda came along when you won the part? Or was it intended to happen?
I don’t think it was a direct intention starting out. I think when the script was written, it was just characters were written. They wanted — and this is coming from what I assume — they just wanted the person who fit the essence of the character best. I don’t think it had anything to do with race or creed or anything like that. It just came down to: we have a group of soldiers who are going through these circumstances. We just want the people that we feel fit the essence of these roles best. We don’t wanna necessarily have it be contingent on race.
I think that’s where that came into it because I was more concerned about it when it came time to audition and to ultimately get the part than the creatives were. They were like, Look, you are the actor that we feel is best to play Boyce. You could play the sincerity that he needs and I guess, basically just the openness that he needs to have. Because he has the responsibility of being the eyes for the audience. The perspective that you’re seeing the movie is through his eyes. So, they want, I like to assume they wanted someone who could fit that bill and play it honestly. That’s what I try to do.
I think that goes for the rest of the cast as well.
Do you think that making Boyce a black soldier at a time when Black people were struggling through Jim Crow worked to amplify his role, his effect, in the film?
Yeah, I think that that’s something that Boyce kept in consideration with what he was doing. I think that it may have added — and this is me speaking as the character — I think it may have added to his fuel or added to his personal fire when it came to him wanting so desperately to prove himself. [That’s] if we were entertaining that particular conversation, which we really didn’t touch much upon in the film.
But if we were to go down that road, I think that this would be a great step forward in proving that, at that time, when we weren’t seen as formidable soldiers, this would’ve proven, we can fight along with our brothers. We can fight as Americans, all together. I would like to think that Boyce considered that for sure.
Do you see Boyce doing this again in a sequel? Do you see him kinda going through the war and infiltrating more monster labs?
I think there’s always a possibility. I know that the cast is incredibly open to the idea, but it’s one of those things where you have to wait and see. I think that they were brilliant in the way that they wrote it. [Overlord] worked very well as a standalone film. But. if they decided to push the envelope and continue to build upon the story, there are places to go from that as well.
We’re in a very advantageous position with that.
You can catch Jovan Adepo as Private Boyce in Overlord when it hits theaters November 9.
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Jonita Davis is a writer, mother, a certified nerd, and writer of Black Girl Nerds. Davis is a critic and journalist. She has been writing for 13 years about the way pop culture and politics affect our lives as parents, women, black women, nerds, and people of this planet.