What does it mean to follow a code to the point of moral unconsciousness? Where is the line blurred between loyalty and the bonds we have as human beings?
Those questions are what Deon Taylor examines with his latest crime thriller “Black and Blue,” starring Naomie Harris and Tyrese Gibson. Taylor wanted the action-packed New Orleans-based film to hit hard with the explosive plotline but also act as a vehicle to start important conversations about those in power being held accountable.
Taylor sat down with Metro to talk about his inspirations for the film, his take on police officers’ relationships in our country today and to give his take on why being the change is far more essential than ever before.
Deon Taylor talks conversation-starting new film “Black and Blue”
What first drew you to the film?
I originally just finished up the movie “The Intruder” when I was handed the screenplay for the film. I remember reading it for the first time and just thinking it was a really cool script; it was fun, there was a lot of action and a few things grabbed me. First, the involvement of the body cameras, and secondly, I also don’t think I’ve ever seen a film with an African American female cop as the lead. That stuck with me, it really grabbed me. This is the first film where it’s a much bigger movie than just me. The screenplay, the culture and what I’ve lived and have been through — just those nuances that are now in the DNA of “Black and Blue” really made me fall all the way in love with the film.
How did you decide on Naomie Harris for the role of Alicia West?
I’m already a bit unorthodox when it comes to casting — I really like people that play against type. But this movie is different. When I started to listen to actors that people thought were really good for the film, I just didn’t think it would work for whatever reason. Somebody said Naomie Harris’ name once, and I remember going “That’s her.” It was actually that fast. Some people brought up that she hadn’t had a lead in a film, but it didn’t matter. [She] is what we needed for this type of film. You have to have an actress that can speak to the audience without uttering a word — and she does that. She has to be vulnerable, she has to fall down, get hurt, cry, move and still be powerful and command the screen. I truly believe Naomie Harris is one of the most important actresses of our generation.
Alicia West seems to be the only character who takes a stand against corruption, why was the line of moral choices blurred for the other characters so easily?
Frank Grillo’s character has a monologue at the end that I really like a lot, it’s very powerful. If you aren’t so engrossed in the action and you listen to what he’s saying, he basically is talking about a corrupt city. Post-Katrina, everybody left and there was almost a post-apocalyptic war that was there where people were running rampant. There really was no law and cops that were patrolling those areas needed to do whatever they could to survive. In this movie, that’s how he was policing. I’m from Gary, Indiana in the Chicago area and there was plenty of corruption there with cops, even with gangs. Bribes, drugs — this is normal in a lot of cities. I believe that Frank Grillo and those other characters really embody cops that went down the wrong path and went rogue operating under their own code. That’s why I love Reid Scott’s character, he reminds me of a kid who was recruited into a gang and had to be affiliated even if he didn’t want to be a part of it. The beautiful and artistic part of the film comes together at the end — the whole theme of the film is “be the change.” Naomie Harris’ character fights to be that change.
What do you hope audiences take away from the film?
I think “Black and Blue” is a completely different experience — it’s a movie that is a hybrid. My idea behind the movie was to give you the same energy that you get in “Training Day” and “Sicario,” but I wanted those moments where I can say something to you. When things like Atatiana Jefferson being shot happen — normally everyone mums the word, no one has anything to say. The reality is there is a cop standing behind the cop who saw everything. What I want to say to you in between this incredible rollercoaster ride is very simple: have integrity as a human, say what you saw and be the change.
“Black and Blue” hits theaters Oct. 25