If you think that Black and Blue is just another cop movie filled with action and stunts, you’re wrong. The film stars British actress Naomie Harris as a rookie cop named Alicia West who witnesses the murder of a street hustler by corrupt police officers.
Director Deon Taylor (who gave us The Intruder earlier this year) told BET.com what he thinks sets this film apart from others in the genre. “What Black and Blue represents is someone saying there should not be a black and blue side. There should be a morphed line where community is not afraid of the police, and where the police could actually patrol the community without anyone getting hurt. And it’s an important message right now.”
Taylor, who admits to having several bad personal experiences with police officers, added, “How do you make a movie that is a commercial film, that could have everything you love from Training Day, everything you love from Sicario – all those great moments? Except this one actually says something about what’s really going on in the culture today, and you actually see both sides of the line.”
Taylor not only convinced Harris to come out of her acting hiatus (she famously took a "break" after being nominated for an Oscar for Moonlight and filming 2018’s Rampage with The Rock) but to take on a leading role, something she had never done before. Furthermore, while there have been many Black female cops on TV and in film, this is the first time one is the lead on the big screen.
Of course, a strong lead requires a strong counterpart, and Taylor tapped R&B musician and actor Tyrese Gibson to play opposite Harris. Of his role in the film as Milo "Mouse" Jackson, Gibson shared, “I tapped into Nipsey Hussle, I tapped into Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, all of this energy around what’s happening in Dallas, two different murders of Black men and women in their living rooms chillin’ and just get killed, the cover-up, the corruption. I came into this thing really thinking about a lot of people that would say, ‘Man, I feel bad about what they are doing.’ It’s very vulnerable to be Black in America right now. And Black women are feeling it more now than they’ve ever felt, because at first it used to be just Black men getting killed, and now we’re seeing Black women get killed by the numbers.”
Black and Blue makes a powerful statement about the relationship between the police and the communities they are tasked to serve. When asked if she’s ever had any bad experience with the police, Harris shared, “I’ve only had the very best experiences with the U.K. police. But it’s not about an individual experience. It’s about understanding what other people are going through, and that everybody’s experience is different, and everybody should be treated fairly by the police. That’s what’s most important, and that’s not was has been happening in the U.K., nor is it what’s happening in the U.S."
In addition to speaking with Taylor, Harris and Gibson, BET also spoke with co-stars Mike Colter (Luke Cage), Frank Grillo (Avengers: Endgame) and Nafessa Williams (Black Lightning) about why Black and Blue is significant and to share their very own personal code of conduct for life.
BET: This movie examines different codes of conduct for the police, the hood, and for humanity, and how these codes interplay and conflict. What’s your personal code of conduct that you abide by?
Naomie Harris: I do, actually. It’s a code for my career. I’ve always said from the very beginning of my career that I want to represent positive images of Black people in general, and Black women in particular, because that’s what I was raised by. I was raised by an intelligent, powerful, independent, strong, inspiring mother, and that’s the community of women that I was surrounded by. And I’ve always felt that they were underrepresented, so I’m always looking for those roles that portray strong powerful women who can inspire.
Mike Colter: I’m a work in progress. I know what I should be doing and I’m striving for excellence, and every day I learn something new about myself. By no means am I perfect, but I got two little girls so I’m trying to do my best.
Frank Grillo: Same. I got three children. I got three sons and I’m trying to raise them in a way that they will be responsible and contributing adults, so I try to live the straight and narrow. It’s always a work in progress and we’re human, but trying is what you need to do every day.
Nafessa Williams: I think for me finding that self-care and peace and joy so that you can ultimately be happy in life and just truly walk in your purpose. Obviously, do the right thing and be the right person, but I think for me it’s about healing and finding myself so that I can have a family someday soon, and give my best to that.
BET: What makes this cop movie different and distinct from all the rest? What do you think is, as director Deon Taylor calls it, the “medicine” of this film?
Harris: This is the first movie ever that has been made with an African-American female police officer as the lead, ever, so that’s the first thing. But then also it’s a thrilling movie that will have you on the edge of your seat. It’s fun, it’s hugely entertaining, but then it also has a really timely message and you will leave the theater being inspired.
Grillo: I think Naomie’s [character] is the medicine. To be brave, to be unpopular doing the right thing, which I think a lot of people are afraid of, and are hoping that the next person will kind of be the one to do it. It’s scary to go against all of what has been created in this world.
Williams: Her integrity is the medicine for me. We don’t see that enough, and if we could get more people to follow that, no matter how unpopular it is, or uneasy it is to be and do, that integrity in her heart is what I think makes the film.
Colter: I think it’s refreshing but surprising that you’re watching a cop film and the lead performer who’s playing a cop is doing the right thing, and somehow that’s refreshing and somehow surprising. We want that to be the norm. We want people to see policemen and go, ‘This is what we expect. This is what we feel is gonna happen and not to question integrity.’ We want this to be the template, and that’s what we’re striving for. If it’s fresh and new, we gotta change that. If this is something that surprises people that’s a problem. I think that policemen who see this film and people in law enforcement who see this film can be proud to think that this is the best of us. Now we have to get rid of the worst of us.
Black And Blue is in theaters Oct 25.
Photo Credit: Sony Pictures