Films on the drug lords of yesterday envoke curiosities from audiences and at times, the inspiration for the glitzy production. When it comes to the film White Boy Rick, its subject could really care less.
Richard Wershe, Jr. became one of the youngest FBI drug informants in American history when he helped take down the biggest movers and shakers on Detriot’s drug scene in the late 80s. He was then arrested and sentenced to life in prison on a non-violent drug charge before he turned 18.
Now 49, Wershe was paroled in 2017 by the state of Michigan and was transferred to a Florida facility to complete a separate charge in connection to an operation with stolen cars.
His case has been a wonder for those in and outside of the system given the number of crooked cops and conspiracies surrounding his case. Despite the many documentaries and now a big-budget film starring Matthew McConaughey, Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta) and YG depicting his life, Wershe is focused on being outside of the cell walls.
“To be honest I don’t think it’s really sunk in,” he explained to the Detriot Free Press last week. “Maybe because where I’m at I’m not overly excited about it. I can’t be at the red carpet premiere for it or see it.”
Wershe’s sister Dawn Wershe Scott (played by Bel Powley) wasn’t thrilled with its perspective of her life or her brother’s. “They’re trying to say it’s based on truth,” she told reporters Friday (Sept. 14). “It’s really twisted.”
Director Yann Demange and producer Scott Franklin reportedly spoke to Wershe a few times a week while creating the film.
“You know maybe when I see [the film] it will feel different but right now, I’m not overly excited about it,” Wershe said. Following his parole, Wershe is now expected to leave prison in January 2021. “I never thought I would be here when my dad died. In a lot of ways, I’m blessed. I’m not dead. In the end, God has a plan for me and I’m going to see what that plan is”
Lawmakers have pointed out the flaws in Wershe’s case, including Michigan’s former 650-Lifer Law that mandated a term of life without parole for possession of more than six hundred and fifty grams of cocaine or heroin. At the time of his arrest, Wershe attempted to hide 8 kilos of cocaine and $30,000 in cash. The New Yorker notes the law became one of the biggest failures in the so-called war on drugs with the then-governor William G. Milliken calling it “the worst mistake of his career.”
For now, Wershe is remaining optimistic and hopeful about his future.
“The worst part is when you wake up and the best part is when you go to sleep because you’ve done another day,” he said. “I never let ’em break me. I did it one day at a time. I always stay strong. I try to work out, I try to read and educate myself. You have my body but you don’t have my mind.”
White Boy Rick is in theaters now. Learn more about his case here.