In the new Shaft film, Samuel L. Jackson returns as the leather clad private detective who knows his way around a gun and a woman. But what viewers find out is that all this time when he was shooting up the club, he was really shooting up the club, and had a son, John Shaft Jr. After a traumatic experience in his childhood, JJ’s mother, Maya (played by Regina Hall) decides that she and her son need to put some distance between them and his gun-toting father.
Years later JJ (played by Jessie T. Usher) seeks out his father to help solve the mysterious death of his friend and their family reunion is one for the books. JJ’s buttoned-up Ivy League style is a stark contrast with his father’s, but the two soon find some common ground.
“That was the concept that got me,” says director Tim Story. “Was the fact that you had this father and son dynamic at the heart of it. They each had to figure out ways to come closer to one another. They’re starting out at opposite ends of the spectrum. So when you think about Shaft having a son, just that in itself brings humor and comedy to it. Because you know the inappropriate things he’s gonna try to tell his son…And that’s what makes it a fun movie to discuss after.”
While Shaft was not physically present, he did make an effort to stay in his son’s life, never missing birthdays and holidays.
“You saw the gifts he sent throughout the years; condoms, brass knuckles, boobie magazines. He’s not a tender dad,” says Regina Hall. “But at the same time he does love his son and that’s what makes the movie work. You do realize that though he’s true to being Shaft, he does love him.”
On top of discovering Shaft’s paternity, the film brings back the original Shaft, Hollywood icon Richard Roundtree, who we find out is actually Shaft’s father. (In the 2000 Shaft, Roundtree was cast as Shaft’s uncle, but that is cleared up in this film.) With three generations of Shafts on the case, the bad guys are in for a hell of a time.
“He [Richard Roundtree] established a Harlem that we’d never seen in film before,” says Jackson. “He and Gordon Parks. A Harlem that was cool, sexy and dangerous. Harlem still was that when my character got it, I just happened to be an angrier Shaft.”
The “angrier” Shaft has to step in really quickly when his son messes with the wrong guy when he sets foot in Harlem.
“You came up here and got your ass whooped immediately? Did you tell anybody your name was Shaft?? We gotta fix this," says Jackson. "So all of a sudden it’s about cementing the Shaft name and letting him know there’s a specific way to carry yourself in here that has been established. And you cannot tarnish the family name because you went to prep school and you didn’t spend enough time up here. So let’s go, let me show you the sexy, dangerous, cool, Harlem. And along the way picking up what technologically the new generation does to solve problems along with my analog way of doing stuff.”
The three Shafts handle business as a family in the way only they can. For a Fathers Day treat, take your dad or grandad to check out Shaft, in theaters now!
Photo Credit: Warner Brothers.