[ 0 ] February 27, 2017 |

CONGRATULATIONS TO MOONLIGHT: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay (writer Tarell Alvin McCraney) & Best Supporting Actor, Mahershala Ali, for made history!



~ by joel martens ~


Moonlight’s Trevante Rhodes (Black)

Coming to terms with one’s sexuality is a story we can all relate to and it is one that has been represented fairly often through written word, film and television…At least for most of us.History’s glaring exception and one that has been brilliantly corrected by a stunning new film called Moonlight—tells the story from the unique perspective of a young, black male. Beautifully doing it in three parts—boyhood, as a teenager and as the man he eventually becomes.

Exceptional also, because it tells the protagonist’s story without apology and without the burden of judgement so often placed on those who grow up in places that aren’t necessarily surrounded by white picket fences in the safety of suburban sprawl. It’s a deeply real story, at times painful to watch that honestly illustrates the experience many gay men face, of any color, when coming to terms with their sexuality.

Bullying, hostility and judgement from society, friends and family are familiar tropes for certain, though for Moonlight’s central character Chrion, they are experiences shadowed too, by addiction, violence, poverty and isolation.

Trevante Rhodes plays one of the three main characters in the film, broken up in three parts and played by three different actors. Part one brings us “Little,” the boy Chiron, isolated and left all-too-often to his own devices, coping through a wisdom far beyond his tender years. Then there is Chiron the teenager, familiarly misunderstood, angry, though at the same time coming to term with “being different.” He’s a tender boy who becomes hardened by a hostile, oppressive world that few of us can completely understand. Then finally, we are introduced to “Black” Rhodes’ character, the adult Chiron, a deeply wounded warrior, scathed by his experiences, yet still searching for the thing we all crave…Love.

Rhodes was kind enough to enlighten us about his Moonlight experiences.

Let’s talk a little about how the role of Chiron came to you.

My manager called me and basically told me that it was the best thing she had ever read and I needed to stop whatever I was doing right then. I did and it’s definitely the best thing that has ever happened to me. So much so, that I even wondered why I had been given the opportunity to read for it.

I initially was up for the role of Kevin that André Holland plays and Barry [Jenkins, director] stopped me half way through and said, “No, I’m going to stop you right now. But, I’m going to do you a favor, I want you to come back tomorrow and read for the other role of Chiron.” Obviously, two auditions later I got the role.

It’s such a powerful production and so well-crafted. What was it like reading through the script the first time?

It was incredible. I mean literally, by page seven I was deeply into it. It was so heavy and you could tell that [Tarell Alvin] McCraney [the author] put his heart and soul into it. There are tears on the page, there is blood on the pages, there is just so much there. The character was so vivid to me and I saw everything about him, I saw things physically that he had that weren’t even in the script, every little characteristic and nuance about him. It was so powerful.

I truly loved how the film is structured. It is such an intelligent way to handle the character development: The boy, the teenager and the adult as separate individuals. It’s rare that you get to see a film so complete when it comes to showing the experiences that make up the man. It’s also uncanny how fluid you and the other two actors were. Did that surprise you?

Yes. Even though we don’t necessarily look alike, you still get the sameness. We carry the same essence and we have “the same eyes,” as everybody likes to say. It’s so fluid and so believable and that makes me have to tip my hat to Yesi [Ramirez] the casting director and obviously Barry, for noticing that within all of us. It’s a magic trick that they did, honestly.

Magic is the perfect description, it’ the alchemy of great film. The casting somehow just melds; you can tell when it works and you can certainly sense it when it doesn’t. It’s evident too in the handling of your role. You’re a straight man playing a gay character in this film. How did you correlate your experience so convincingly with that of Chiron’s?


I’ve said this often—I don’t really see that there is a difference—and for me, it’s kind of ignorant to assume that there is. I would be the same exact person if I was born loving men. I’m incredibly comfortable in my skin and with who I am, my mother raised me that way. I would 100 percent still be this same person if I were attracted to men. Again, I don’t know if that’s because of the way I was raised, or because of the things that have happened to me in my life. But like I said, I just don’t see it as being different.

It’s interesting to me, how some people do find there to be such a huge difference. People have asked me, “How is it possible for you to feel such emotions for another straight man?” To me it’s like this, I love André Holland [Kevin, Chiron’s friend and first sexual experience] for the person that he is, so I can fall in love with someone mentally. If I was attracted to men, I would probably be attracted to André because I do love him for who he is. He has become a really good friend and I feel like that with all of my best friends…I love them so dearly. If it was a woman I was attracted to, I would love her as if she was my best friend and I feel like that’s the most important thing…That connection.

One of the other reasons I think this is such an important film is because portrayals of gay, black men are almost nonexistent. It’s a story that is missing from the American film lexicon.

Almost is the wrong word, they are completely nonexistent and that’s why this is so unique. How are these stories not portrayed in the narrative? It’s crazy to me.

But, I think we are coming to a place where more of them are being told better and more specifically. It’s good too, that this character isn’t only in the movie to be an overly-flamboyant gay guy or he isn’t in the movie to be just the gangster either and have both ideas be exhausted in the film. It’s all a part of who he is, but it’s not just the person. It’s really cool the we get to delve into him and show everyone that he is three-dimensional.

It amazes me to no end that we haven’t had access to a gay character who grew up the way he did and lived where and how he did. In particular, one who is portrayed as human and complex, not just dangerous or as you said, flamboyant.

Absolutely. It’s refreshing that we get to see it at the forefront of a film. Like I said, it’s never happened before and the fact that it’s resonating with people, tells me that we are yearning to hear these stories and want to understand more about everyone’s experience.

Do you have a favorite moment from the film? One that spoke to you in particular?

I’ve seen it like seven or eight times now and man, every time there is something new that speaks to me. My favorite when I first read the script, was the scene that I had with Naomi [Harris, who plays Chiron’s drug-addicted mother]. I have a wonderful relationship with my mother, so playing a character who didn’t was something that was really interesting for me. To kind of assume a moment and then when it all came back around—to where he did end up having it—was special. The second time I saw it, my favorite was in the second chapter at the very end, when Aston [Sanders, who plays Chiron as a teenager] is in the office with his principle and says, “You don’t know, you don’t know, you don’t know.” There was just so much in those words and it was so meaningful to me.

“Wanting all the money in the world is
because you want people to love you for
that, or being an actor is about wanting
people to love you for your contribution
to the world. Everything is for love…
Everything. Be it the love of someone or
of something, we all are seeking.”

The two young actors who played “Little” [Chiron as a boy] and Chiron as a teenager were extraordinary.

Incredible, weren’t they? Especially for the youngest, little Alex [Hibbert]. To see him and to get to know him and the work that he did, was inspiring.

His relationship with Juan [Mahershala Ali] was such a pivotal part of the story. He really was the only father figure Chiron had and he handled him with such tenderness. Kind of an odd question, but, how would you handle a relationship like that if you were the adult in the situation?

I would one hundred percent encourage them to love themselves and to understand themselves, as opposed to trying to fit into any mold or be someone who they perceive as being successful. To understand that everybody is incredibly different and therein lies the beauty of it all. We are all so different, but in so many ways that makes us all kind of the same.

I’m curious, is there anything about making the film that totally surprised you?

Honestly, the understanding that I gained of myself more than anything. I was brought up to be a person who is compassionate to anyone and everyone…My mind and my eyes and my heart have been open my entire life. I have maybe a small percentage of Chiron in me and to be able to kind of exhaust that 100 percent, was really unique and let me have more understanding about myself and those around me.

What are you most hoping people will get from the film?


I hope that everyone has a similar response to the one you are having. A sort of heart-shaking, deep understanding of what it was like for Chiron. That everyone can relate in a way they can’t necessarily describe, but know on some deep level that this is their story.

All these things happen to everyone and I hope people understand that and how it kind of unifies us all. I say this so often, but love really is the only thing that matters. Everything we do, is for love: Wanting all the money in the world is because you want people to love you for that, or being an actor is about wanting people to love you for your contribution to the world. Everything is for love…Everything. Be it the love of someone or of something, we all are seeking.

A wonderful tidbit of wisdom from Mr. Rhodes.

(Laughs) Thank you, sir.

Moonlight is in theaters now. Check your local listings for locations and showtimes.

Category: General, National News

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