Social injustice in America is a never-ending narrative that seems to pile up by the minute, especially when comes to the imprisonment of black and brown people. Activist lawyer Bryan Stevenson spent the majority of his career fighting for wrongly convicted clients and wrote a Just Mercy memoir detailing the struggles of his legal battles in the courtroom.
The story of Walter McMillian, one of his clients in the late ’80s, who was charged for the murder of a young white woman in Monroeville, Ala., despite the lack of physical evidence. That case has since been adapted into the new, Destin Daniel Cretton-directed film with the same name starring Michael B. Jordan playing Stevenson and Jamie Foxx as McMillian.
VIBE chatted with the actors to talk about finally working together on a film and how they were able to dynamically play their roles side by side while telling an important story on a topic, especially as black actors who’ve made their mark in Hollywood.
“I’ve watched Michael do things that we didn’t even [get to] do. We came through on the funny side of black empowerment, meaning In Living Color and things like that. But to see someone take Fruitvale Station and to see him bring the emotion and awareness to that, and then go from there to Killmonger who is a Marvel superhero villain, but still, has a narrative on the biggest stage in the world to say, ‘What about us? What about black folk?'” said Foxx about Jordan.
“And now to come to this and to be across from him, you can tell that he had already been submerged in his character and who he wanted to be….I’ll use this reference. If you look at LeBron and AD (Anthony Davis), [there’s that] comfortability of really wanting to do something great.”
Supporting roles in Just Mercy were played by Captain Marvel actress Brie Larson (“Eva Ansley”), Karan Kendrick (“Minnie McMillian”) Watchmen actor Tim Blake Nelson (“Ralph Myers”), and The Photograph actor Rob Morgan (“Herbert Richardson”) also chatted about their experience and being a part of a conversation-stirring project. Stevenson also shared his hopes for moviegoers who see the film.
“When you see these performances…it’s so powerful that you can see the humanity and the dignity of the people that I represented. And when you see that humanity being crushed unfairly, treated unfairly, it ought to make you angry. It ought to motivate you to do some things. That’s what I’m hoping.
“Cause if we can get people to leave the theaters ready to get active on these issues, I think we can have a huge impact on the future of how this plays out. I don’t want there to be another generation of Walter McMillians and Anthony Ray Hintons condemned to die unfairly on our death rows.”
Watch all the interviews in the videos above and below. Just Mercy is in theaters now.