Hill Harper Talks Playing The ‘Intellectual Villain’ Opposite Will Smith In ‘Concussion’
The wool will be pulled from over the eyes of football fans the world over when Concussion—a film about the long term effects of repetitive head trauma football players experience, and the NFL’s attempts at keeping it under wraps--hits theaters.
Academy-Award nominated actor, Will Smith plays Dr. Bennett Omalu, an African-born forensic pathologist who, while doing the autopsy on 50-year-old Mike "Iron Mike" Webster of the Pittsburg Steelers, discovers what will later be known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE.
Based off of GQ's September 2009 story "Game Brain", film writer and director Peter Landesman chronicles Omalu’s findings, and the not-so veiled attempts the NFL tries to keep his research a secret. One of the many men working against Omalu is Chris Jones played by Hill Harper, who describes himself as the film’s “intellectual villain.”
“I’m kind of behind the scenes, the puppet master,” Harper said. “Chris Jones is that person, that consigliere in the NFL that you know is doing things that may not be in the best interest of the players. He goes across and you get to see an insight into the thousands of people that actually work at a place like the NFL. “
In an interview with Vibe, Harper is adamant that to describe Concussion as a movie that bashes America's favorite pass time is too puny a synopsis of the film’s totality.
“I don’t think Concussion is a condemnation of football at all,” the 49-year-old said. “What it is, is a telling of the truth of what’s really happening to the people who play. It’s basically a siren call to say ‘Hey what’s really going on? We have to change some rules, and we have to develop a different type of way to protect these individuals and protect their brains. "
As Omalu continues to strengthen his investigation, Jones goes to great lengths to bury Omalu's research and credibility. Harper said because the film reveals the truth about the dangers of football, it reaffirmed his personal desire to seek out information.
"Yes. I want information. I don’t like telling people what they should and shouldn’t do. But I want people to make their decisions based on accurate information," Harper said. "It’s just like the issue around cigarettes years ago. I’m not telling people whether they should smoke or not. That’s your free will. I want you making that decision not based off information tobacco companies covered up. I want you to make that decision based off accurate information of what smoking does and the hazards it presents."
Despite the sobering truth of the film, Harper says Concussion is the "best thing that ever happened to football."
"Why? Because a lot of the fans don't understand some of the rule changes 'How come they're not letting them do...?' Or 'I remember back in the day when they hit 'em and then they'd spin around' That's a lot of different types of hitting. Obviously, the [NFL] knew and they were trying to change it incrementally, but now fans will at least understand why they're at least some rules that have to change in the game."
Concussion hits theaters nationwide today!