LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – As an African-American born and raised in the United States, actor John David Washington is no stranger to violence and racism.
Actor John David Washington arrives for the Canadian premiere of Monsters and Men at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in Toronto, Canada, September 6, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Helgren
But Washington, the son of Oscar-winning actor Denzel Washington, says he was shaken up when preparing to play a New York cop who gets caught up in the shooting of an unarmed black man in the movie “Monsters and Men.”
“I got to go on these (police) ride-alongs for about a month and those were sleepless nights for me. I saw a man get shot and almost bleed to death. That was on my first day,” Washington told Reuters Television about his research for the part.
“I saw stuff I don’t want to talk about too much but that I’m living with forever. But then I thought about like, that’s what they live with all the time. And then, how do you turn it off? How do you go to a family barbecue after you just worked a 13-hour or 12-hour shift seeing two people getting shot to death,” he said.
“Monsters and Men,” opening in U.S. movie theaters on Friday, likewise has no easy answers.
The latest in a spate of films inspired by police shootings of unarmed men and women that have spurred riots and mass protests in American cities, it dramatizes one such incident and shows the effect on three different men of color living in New York’s Brooklyn neighborhood.
Anthony Ramos plays a young father who takes cell phone video of a shooting and is conflicted over whether to publicize it. Washington faces a dilemma over a mistake by one of his police colleagues, and Kelvin Harris Jr. plays a teen baseball player who is politicized by the incident.
“Monsters and Men” provokes audiences to ask similar questions of themselves.
“The film isn’t suggestive. It’s laying out what’s happening in our country right now, both positively and negatively,” said Washington, 34.
“This is just going to help maybe spark some ideas or some reminders of how divided we are, so hopefully we can inspire one person to find the solution and start the dialogue,” he said.
Police shootings and race relations in the United States also prompted the Netflix series “Seven Seconds,” summer movies “BlacKkKlansman” and “Blindspotting,” as well as upcoming film “The Hate U Give.”
Reporting by Reuters Television; Editing by Sandra Maler