Hudson also discusses how ‘Dreamgirls’ still serves as her guide for everything.
We often talk about the lengthy journey from the completion of a script to getting the financing and go-ahead to go into production, but in the movie Monster’s case, the waiting game happened after the film was completed and received a standing ovation at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Despite that warm reception, Monster is only first getting a release now. But on the bright side, it is getting a Netflix release, which gives the Anthony Mandler-directed film an opportunity to reach an especially large audience.
The movie stars Kelvin Harrison Jr. as Steve Harmon, a teenager living in Harlem who’s an honor student eager to become a filmmaker. However, those hopes are obliterated when Steve is charged with felony murder. Did Steve really lose his promising future by participating in the crime or is he caught up in a rigged system? Monster explores the nature of justice through a deeply personal telling of Steve’s experience with the legal system, one that examines the drastically different ways those involved in his trial see him – from the prosecution painting him as a monster to his parents who see a loving son with a promising future.
With Monster now available to watch on Netflix, I got the chance to catch up with Jennifer Hudson and Jeffrey Wright who play Steve’s parents in the film. What gave these award-winning actors the confidence that first time feature director Anthony Mandler was the right person to helm the film? Hudson was actually the perfect person to ask because she worked with Mandler on a music video. Here’s how Hudson put it:
“It started out when we did a music video of mine and I was like, ‘You’re gonna direct a film one day.’ He’s like, ‘And you’re gonna be in it.’ I said, ‘I will be there!’ So that’s kind of how we ended up syncing up together and me being a part of this project because Anthony Mandler is an amazing director and now you’ll get to see his amazing work through film, which I’m just proud to be a part of.”
While the stars of the movie aren’t often involved in the distribution-seeking process, that doesn’t mean they don’t feel the frustration of a film not getting the attention it deserves. Wright explained:
“I was a little frustrated that the film hadn’t found a home immediately after Sundance. When we screened there, this film got a reaction that is rare. It was a standing ovation for this film that rolled on and it’s a function of the power of the story, obviously the direction of the film, and I think it’s particularly a function of the work that Kelvin put in.”
Wright went on to say that Harrison Jr. not getting the recognition he deserved for his work in the film was more disappointing to him than anything:
“I’ve seen a lot of young actors who get a first role, they come out and they get a nomination and are celebrated and received by their peers and I was incredibly disappointed for Kelvin that he didn’t have that opportunity with this film. Because there’s not been a performance that I’ve seen by a young actor that surpasses this performance. Of all of the young actors that have come through, and there are some really talented guys, I haven’t seen one who’s been recognized with an Oscar nod that surpasses what Kelvin does in this film.”
Looking to hear more from Hudson and Wright on their experiences leading their first features, what it was like working opposite Harrison Jr. on Monster and more? You can catch our full conversation in the video at the top of this article!
“I’m here to talk to you about the Avenger Initiative.”
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