Filmmaker Deon Taylor is making his petition known with his latest full-length feature, Black and Blue. Set in present-day New Orleans, rookie cop Alicia West (played by Oscar-nominated actress Naomie Harris) returns to her Nola roots in hopes to serve and protect. It doesn’t take long, however, for West to realize being from the neighborhood means nothing when she’s wearing her uniform or badge.
The trailer for the forthcoming thriller premiered Sunday night (June 23) during the 2019 BET Awards. In the three-minute spot, viewers follow West as she exits a squad car and enters an abandoned warehouse. Seconds later, she witnesses a corrupt cop (played by Frank Grillo) kill a local drug dealer.
West now becomes a target after realizing the murder was recorded on her body cam. Her problems are only compounded when local drug dealer Darius (Mike Colter, Luke Cage) is working in concert with the police and puts a bounty on West’s head. Now West has a decision to make: either ignore the truth or expose it.
Dialing in from Los Angeles, Taylor spoke to VIBE about the premise of the Peter A Dowling script, the timeliness of the film and did he, in fact, give it all away in the trailer?
Why the name change from Exposure to Black and Blue?
Deon Taylor: In the film, Alicia West (Naomie Harris) kept being asked ‘What side of the line are you on? Are you black or are you blue?’ and what I thought was incredible throughout the movie was she’s saying there is no side, we’re here to serve the people. We wanted to lean into that. I thought it would be a great conversation piece and it’s also about blending the worlds and creating a better place for people to live. So that’s why we made the change.
Is the film as much entertainment as it is a political statement?
Yes. I’m going to answer yes to that. Right now, we’re in a world where we don’t want to feed people medicine. We want to put the medicine inside the candy. That’s what I feel like this film is about.
Our first goal is to make sure you have a blast in the theater. You’re getting all those elements you would get from Training Day. But, as a filmmaker, I’m also trying to drop some messages and some Easter eggs in the film. What I’m hoping is this film shows us what we need to do to be better as a people as we’re fighting against what we’re seeing in the news every day. What’s so current is here’s Alicia West, Naomie Harris playing this character saying ‘Nah, we not doing that. Y’all are corrupt and I’m about to expose it. I don’t care what side of the line I’m on.’
Why did you choose to film in New Orleans?
We filmed in New Orleans for New Orleans. New Orleans is interesting because as we began to put the movie together, I just loved being in the South where people are really homegrown. New Orleans was one of the places that had high corruption after [Hurricane] Katrina, and we just felt like New Orleans was raw and unfiltered. I love that Naomie Harris’ character had those southern morals. The backdrop of New Orleans is also beautiful. The music, the people, the culture itself. We featured a lot of B. Mike’s artwork and the murals he’s done as well.
Mike Colter went from being everyone’s favorite black superhero in Luke Cage to this scary, menacing drug dealer. Why did you choose to reimagine Mike Colter this way?
What I love about being a director is I love playing people against type. In The Intruder it was Dennis Quad and the new thriller I did it’s Hilary Swank. This movie is no different. For Mike Colter, when I thought about what character he’s playing without giving it away, it would be easy to cast someone to be tough and beat people up and have that energy, but Colter’s character in the movie, Darius, he’s more complex. He’s someone who’s a product of the environment but also a cerebral thinker.
So for that, I needed to find an actor that was intimidating, but when he opens up his mouth and he talks, I needed someone who had the correct tone to be a more complicated villain. What I tried to do with the Darius character was build someone I know. Colter was able to reimagine the character that way in which you can see the tough exterior, but at the same time, he’s calculated in how he thinks and how he moves.
My last question is in a lot of films, they give the best stuff away in the trailer. Have you done that?