Sorry to Bother You Interview

The cast of the Boots Riley-directed Sorry To Bother You were matching. No, seriously: Steven Yeun (Squeeze) and Jeremy Fowler (Salvador) were wearing the exact same light blue stripe nautical-esque tee, while LaKeith Stanfield (Cassius “Cash” Green) wore the matching hat (also light blue and striped).

Whether or not the outfits were planned, I couldn’t be sure. But that’s mainly due to the ease and sense of closeness that this cast has that it could be imagined that some of the men wanted to match for the hell of it. In this world that Riley has created, anything goes.

Beyond showing off the matching duds, the cast sat down with press to talk shop about the film. When asked about what made them sign on do this film, Stanfield, who plays the lead, jumps to praise the maestro of this operation. “I think the common thread is this guy’s mind [touches Riley’s shoulder] right here. He brought some crazy story that like, it moved us all in some ways, form or fashion and I think all of us, to some degree, knew it was an opportunity too to embark on something unlike we’d done before, something really different. I think everyone here; I don’t think you’ve ever seen them how they are in this movie.”

Fowler, who plays Cash’s best friend, speaks about one of the topics the film tackles, which is code switching in a primarily white workplace: “I know a lot of people back home from Maryland who are still working at these companies that they hate and they don’t feel like they’re getting, they’re being heard and, you know, they feel like they have to use their code switch to a certain degree to stay there and that was something that really, like really spoke to me.”

Steven Yeun, who plays Squeeze, a co-worker of Cash, continues the love fest and speaks to Riley’s authenticity: “…Boots [Riley] wrote like a script where you read it and you go, ‘This is something I’ve never seen before but it’s also super honest in the way that it’s written.’ And so, then you go, ‘Cool. I’m going to work with that guy.’ Like no problem. And when you go to set, it’s compounded by the fact that he’s immersed, like there’s no… it’s obvious. He got these people to be in his film. He got all those people in Oakland to help him do his film. It’s almost like Boots spent your whole life making this film up until this point because people helped that movie get made, I mean, everyone helped that movie get made and there’s so much love there. So, that’s a thing that I don’t know any other person than Boots in that specific time could have ever done.”

Tessa Thompson, who plays Detroit, a colorful artist/activist, was drawn in due to the magical space that Riley created: “I really, really, really wanted to make a film that made use of magical realism or hung out in that space. So many films that I loved occupied that space and all I’ve ever wanted to do really like once I became a working actor, I was like, ‘Okay, what do I really want to do? I want to make films that I want to watch.’ And that I want to watch enough to like forgive myself enough to watch them. And I still want to watch this movie. But I really wanted to make a film in that genre space and for whatever reason, and those films just exclude black and brown people. They just are never in those narratives.”

Terry Crews, who plays Cash’s Uncle Sergio, recounts a time when music played the role of black surrealist film: “For years, actually, decades, people of color have used the music industry to get that across and we weren’t allowed to dream like we did with Parliament and Funkadelic and, you know, Public Enemy, anything like that. That was, we were like, I remember, I got to talk to Kendrick Lamar and I said, ‘Man, when you made Good Kid, MAAD City, that was our hundred-million-dollar movie.’ You know, when you look at [GKMC) from the beginning and you’re like this is our movie, all I [need to do is just] close my eyes. But this [Sorry To Bother You] is our movie. Like this is a hit album set to film. You know what I mean?”

Riley himself was asked about what he wants to people to get out of seeing his film. His answer centers the desire for audiences to not walk away with one thing, “I can tell you I have hopes and dreams for, there are some things that I’m hoping for more than others but I want people to feel like ‘I took so much from it.’ This is, I do hope overall, there’s a feeling through craziness, through all the fucked up things happen, that there’s an optimism that has to do with the idea that as long as you’re fighting, that’s the happy ending. There is no ending but that the happiness, the optimism comes with fighting, with pushing back.”

Sorry to Bother You is in limited release now and opens wide next week. Read our review right here.

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