Last month we visited Los Angles for the #ThisIsLoving Press Event to celebrate LOVING, which opens in theaters nationwide through November. While there, we had the opportunity to see an advanced screening of the film and sit down with members of the cast to learn more about the production.
Have you read our 5 Reasons to See LOVING?
The film pays tribute to the love that Mildred and Richard Loving shared throughout the years. It was absolutely beautiful and provides a new sense of hope and renewed faith. Their love story is one that I will never tire of. I’ve been researching and trying to learn more and more since I returned home from my trip and I don’t see that stopping anytime soon. They inspire me, they remind me love is worth fighting for, and they’ve given me new goals to strive for in my marriage.
Aside from the film itself, we also had the opportunity to sit down with the talented cast and director that turned this true story into a movie for the big screen. After seeing LOVING, I was eager to hear from them all, to see why they got involved in the project, and how they felt about the final “product” and we were able to do just that. There was so much information shared that day that it is only fitting that I break the conversation down into two parts. Without further delay…
LOVING Interview ~ Part I
Ruth Negga (“Mildred Loving”), Joel Edgerton (“Richard Loving”), Terri Abney (“Garnet”), and Director Jeff Nichols
ROLE DIFFICULTY ~ SOMETIMES DIALOGUE WASN’T THERE
QUESTION: Was it more of a difficult challenge bringing these people to life when you don’t have that safety net of dialogue?
JOEL: I really learned something about, well, there was a lesson in that one of the last roles I had done was very verbal. You allow the words to say so much, and subtext obviously is very important but when you get all the words taken away from you, and you play a person who thinks a lot but says very little, you have to be very focused on the specificity of what silence is or means or is generated by or is a reaction to. What it’s a reaction to and that was a lot of concession that Jeff and I had on the days of shooting those certain scenes which was like, I guess in some way writing the speeches that weren’t being said, and having a very clear idea, for example, we talked a lot on the day we were shooting scene with Sheriff Brooks.
When he’s talking about a robin being a robin and a sparrow being a sparrow, and about the energetic nature of the silence and what it meant and the dotting of I’s and looking for the door and wanting to kind of get out, but at the frustration and trying to form words. All of those different reasons that could be behind the silence. So it actually became real joy and focus and a lesson to take on to other projects I think for me. But Jeff was very specific in the screenwriting, that meant that it wasn’t as big a mystery as it could be in the hands of somebody else, because, there weren’t a lot of words of dialogue on the page, but you knew exactly what was going on.
INTIMIDATION ~ PLAYING A ROLE BASED ON A TRUE STORY
QUESTION: Do you find it intimidating to play a role of a true story?
TERRI: Yeah, I would have to say definitely you want to do the character justice, you want to honor their legacy, and you want to tell the truth and so it is intimidating. The important part for me was just to rise to the occasion, and that happened by doing the homework and knowing the time period, the era and then really understanding the relationship that I had with all the other characters.
JOEL: I think it narrows the field of options you know, that the…
JOEL: The easy part of it is that it narrows the field of options; you don’t have to create a character out of nothing. You don’t have to draw any picture on a blank page, you’re told what picture to draw. The challenge, or the difficulty becomes in putting the pressure on yourself to do it and to go beyond well, I think for Ruth and I, having so much archival footage, the risk is you just end up acting in a bubble because you’re concentrating on the way you sound and the way your posture has changed, and the way you move, and that it becomes an impression or mimicry but it has to go beyond that to serve the movie.
The real key was not so much the characters, but like Terri’s pointing out too, the relationships between the characters. Particularly for Ruth and I, to harness the energy of a relationship that again, wasn’t our creation so much as a combination of us working with a very detailed laid out plan in the screenplay that Jeff had written.
FILMING IN CAROLINE COUNTY
QUESTION: What was it like to work in the real life surroundings of Caroline County?
JEFF: It was a necessity for me, going in. When I was approached about this in 2012, the first thing I did was go to Virginia. Some important things happened. One, I’m going to the courthouse that they were tried in and I’m going to the jail where they were held. All of which were used in the film. I’m going to the home that they lived in, hiding in, which was about a three minute walk from the field, in the film where he proposes.
These roads, these places, these fields, they were integral to Mildred and Ruth can certainly speak to that. But, playing devil’s advocate early on as a writer, you’re like, well I’m just going to say well what’s the big deal? DC’s about two hours away, you know, really, this is the problem? And absolutely it is. It could’ve been another universe for her and her separation from nature specifically I think was a big part of her depression in DC and a big part of the drive that would push her back to the country, to bring her family back under the threat of arrest or much, much worse.
So understanding that place, the physicality of it, was very important. But then when you’re in production, it adds this focus, there’s a responsibility that is so tactile because you’re walking literally in their footsteps, I mean they’re standing in front of the judges bench, that Richard and Mildred stood in front of. That can’t help but remind you that these aren’t characters in a movie. These are real people, flesh and blood and we need to honor that.
WOULD YOU DO THE SAME?
QUESTION: They’re not activists in that time. If it was real life and you were in that same position, how would you have handled it? Would you have taken the same path as the Loving’s did? How would you have acted in the same situation?
RUTH: That’s a very good question. I would, I think we all like to think that we would, that our goodness and our integrity would prevail.
I’m not sure actually because it’s, you know, considering the time that they were living in, it was a time of extraordinary tension, and quite a brave thing to sort of speak up in many instances. Over the risk of violence; both imprisonment and sort of unofficially as well, you risked a lot. So, I would like to hope I would.
I think that why people admire this couple is their sort of tenacity and perseverance in the face of you know, the bit status quo you know, the institution. It’s quite an amazing feat actually. Especially Mildred’s refusal to be silenced and the lovely sort of self-belief in herself, without being sort of demonstrative of it. She’s beautiful, she has great self-esteem, and you realize that she gets that from her family, from Virginia, from her relationship with Richard. I would hope that we would, but it’s, I don’t know, she’s quite an extraordinary woman. I think everyone who met her was captivated by her; people say that in the film. I think everyone who’s watched the documentary, Nancy’s documentary, our footage of them feel the same way.
I don’t know. I would hope.
TO BE CONTINUED …
There was so much more that we talked about that day but for now, hopefully this will give you something to think about. Please be sure to keep an eye out next week, we will be sharing Part II of our Interview and more from the fabulous staff.
In the meantime, LOVING is now playing in theaters across the country. Take a time out for LOVING and head to theaters this weekend!
Richard and Mildred’s story showed us that love is stronger than hate and has the power to spark real change. To learn more about film and the #VoteLoving campaign, visit VoteLoving.com.
Follow LOVING to participate and help love change the world!
In Select Cities November 4
Additional Cities throughout November
Cast: Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga, Marton Csokas, Nick Kroll, Terri Abney, Alano Miller, Jon Bass, and Michael Shannon
Written and Directed By: Jeff Nichols
Distributor: Focus Features
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: I was sent on an all-expense paid trip to Los Angeles to cover the LOVING Event with Focus Features. Regardless, all opinions expressed are still 100% my own.