Malcolm David Kelley – Detroit
By: Lisa Steinberg
Q) Do you have a preference between doing music and acting?
A) I love both to death, but just getting a chance to go back and act a little bit when I had a bit of down time of music, especially with a project like this. Some other things are coming up and this was an amazing project to be a part of.
Q) In our current political climate it is relevant to share these stories. Why is it so important more than ever to tell these stories?
A) This is something that has been hidden for a little bit. It’ something that rocked Detroit in 1967 and was one of the darkest charters in American history. It’s something we are ready for and is going to bring conversation the masses and how it relates to what was going on forty to fifty years ago. It also shows how we have definitely grown and evolved, but there is still a lot of work to do. It’s a conversation to get everyone on the same page. We need to reinforce in the communities to have everyone understanding. I think it’s amazing and everyone will enjoy this movie. It will touch every generation.
Q) It is definitely a conversation we need to be having.
A) You can never learn too much history. This is something that is definitely cultured. It will just spark that conversation and get on the same page with law enforcement. Growing up I remember my dad telling me just to comply with the police. It was something going on when he was growing up so he wanted to make sure I knew how to comply with that. With the evolving of everyone in our culture and the evolving our society, sometimes our younger generations are missing that conversations. Sometimes we can definitely avoid that kind of conflict. This is just going to bring strong conversations. They did an amazing job with casting and I’m just so glad to be a part of this film. As an actor, sometimes it feels good to do a project that is going to mean something. So, fifty years from now because this is a story that is American History, it is going to be awesome. Kathryn [Bigelow] is an award winning director and she’s so nice. I want to get into directing and producing my own stuff. They have done an amazing job and I can’t wait for people to see it.
Q) What kind of feedback have you gotten to the trailer of the film Detroit?
A) Just going out in certain places, people are talking about the movie. A lot of people are excited to see it. That’s one of the best things. We’ll be doing a lot of appearances and I want the younger generation to go see it. That’s the big thing. It’s a lot of history and knowledge going on. Everyone is talking about it so I can’t wait for everyone to go see it.
Q) Talk about character and the breakdown you got for the role.
A) With this movie, the way they set it up they don’t give you all the description. I knew it was going to be a time piece. Kathryn likes a lot of improv because she likes real reactions – as fresh as possible. Great chemistry. So, we were doing a lot of testing in Beverly Hills where she got different people auditioning. She gave us the freedom to improv and do sing-alongs. There is some great music in this film. The audition process was very organic. After we booked it, we got to go to various places around Massachusetts and Detroit. Just giving us the cast to build chemistry. They were all friends hanging out and it gave us the chance to build chemistry. They are all my real friends. She just gave us the freedom to trust ourselves as actors. She trusted us with this project. She gives you this comfort on set while still giving us direction yet believing in us to tell the story. You’re going to shed some tears, laugh and feel good. You really feel every emotion. It’s a seat grabbing movie. It’s so intense and amazing.
Q) What was it like working with the cast of Detroit?
A) I was just so humbled to even be a part of this cast. It is really going to speak volumes. Growing up, knowing some of the actors, really helped.
Q) What were some of your favorite moments from filming the movie?
A) Definitely working with everyone on set. There is a scene that you kind of see in the trailer where we are kind of in the hallway. It took so long shooting that because of all the actors and with the hallway there are so many actors and so much coverage. We spent a lot of time in that hallway bonding and having fun, but at the same time we’re all actors and artists. So, for us to be able to tap into this deep crazy time piece…We’re actually trying to tap into this time period and this character. It got kind of intense sometimes on set because we were all thinking of the betterment of the projects and were method actors trying to get into what we were doing. To see how professional everybody was…We would be going back so many times into that hallway just because we wanted to get it right. So, we had to sometimes make it light and joke. There was some wear and tear on us, but it made you think about the people who actually went through this situation. They didn’t have the luxury to be able to stop and do another take. We’re only telling a story that we can make right for the movie and the two hour time. It was crazy how the situation was and when we got to sit and think about that…We also had one of the ladies on set who went through this situation. She was there every day. She was so strong. For her to be able to kind or relive this situation and tell us how it went helped us keep it as real as possible. It’s definitely something that is still on my mind today. I came away from the movie with a different mindset of how I want to live and that I want everyone to be on the same page. We just want to spread love and peace. We have grown a lot, but I think there is a conversation we need to have where we can grow even more. Being with the cast helped us bond more. We learned history and did extra work to learn our characters. We wanted to go further because we felt strong about this project. We also had a lot of fun. The cities of Boston and Detroit showed us a lot of love. I think the people of Detroit are going to like this movie and it will uplift the city, I think. I think it’s better to bring things in the dark to the light.
Q) What was the most challenging aspect of filming? Was it the emotional side of portrayal or the event representation?
A) I would definitely be both. As I said before, it’s trying to know where I came from and know what I’ve gone through while trying to put myself in 1967 and what was going on there. Talking to my dad, he’s in his 50’s so he can go back to that time since he lived through it. He used to talk to me a lot growing up and he wanted to instill with me how to comply with the police when I ran across them and certain things like that. It was trying to go back to 1967. Michael Clark was a fun, smooth guy who loved the ladies. He’d hang out at the Algiers Hotel and you can go there to relax to try to get your mind off the riots. Trying to tap into that – it’s kind of me. I’m kind of a laid back, sooth guy and very loyal. Michael was very loyal. Going through a tragedy like this with some people you are close to and some people that you’re not close with – you’ll see in the movie that when you go through something like this with people you become close quickly. I’m a very loyal person and that hit home for me. So, the hard part was tapping into 1967, but it definitely came across as real. Growing up, Being African American in 1967 with the police there was tension with the riots and racism going on. Tapping into a time piece like this where there is a hat between both sides…Growing up we’re in a different time and don’t have that mindset. So, we haven’t grown up with that hatred. All of us trying to tap into that would wear on us at the end of the day. If we’re out having dinner or at a club later that night and then the next day at our throats while filming got weird. That’s the beautiful thing though as an actor and doing your thing as an artist. You’re going to see that on screen.
Q) What were some of your most memorable moments of filming Detroit?
A) Another one of my favorite parts to film was filming at the Algiers Motel and hanging out with the guys. Algiers is where the incident took place. There are pictures and stuff of it. With us being there, we spent a lot of time sitting there. That time bonding. There are a lot of great moments laughing on set. Sometimes we’d be singing and playing each other’s new albums. We played basketball. Just the city was showing us a lot of love while we were shooting. The people were so nice and showed us the good spots to go to. We also got to go to Martha’s Vineyard. That was a nice little trip. We had a couple days off so we went to go barbeque and hang out in Martha’s Vineyard. It was beautiful and a nice little moment. Also, watching Kathryn direct – because that’s one of my passions. So, just watching her and learning as much as I could from her and her camera department. It was definitely one of my favorite projects to be a part of.
Q) What is next for you musically and when can we hear it?
A) I’m trying to get that in order. Tony and I are trying to figure out the next song and project. Definitely we’re trying to do it at a fast pace to get more music out there. It’s a big passion of ours since we’ve bene growing up. It’s been almost five years now. So, people are still tweeting us and appreciating some of the songs. We always love the stage. So, we’re trying to figure that out as soon as possible. While we’re touring, I want to be able to hit some stages. We’re trying to figure out and you’ll be getting some music soon. Watch the socials!
Q) How has your music become an extension of you or representation of you?
A) A big representation! I love it because when Tony and I started we knew there was a stigma about actors trying to jump into music and people kind of not taking them seriously. Tony and I put in that grind, literally going state to state to radio stations promoting our music since people didn’t know us outside of acting. For me, just having fans all over the world – it’s crazy what music can do! I miss it. I love it. So, we’re really trying to figure this out. Not being on that stage is killing us. It’s crazy when I go live on Instagram and see people from all over Malaysia and Holland and different parts of the US. Music is definitely a big part of me and I’m glad I can share it with the world. I definitely just want to expand on that and keep growing.
Q) What else do you want to be sure our readers know about the film or your music?
A) I appreciate all the fan support – from acting to music. For the people who don’t know me, they can share the music and the movies. I’m so glad that people take the time to love both. They have the chance to love both because I love both. I appreciate them rocking with us. Tune in to “Insecure.” I make a cameo. I’m trying to get ready for the music and watch Detroit. Stay tuned!