Trevor Jackson & Gerard McMurray – Burning Sands
By: Jamie Steinberg
Q) Gerard, why was “Burning Sands” such an important film for you to write?
Gerard: I think it was important because I wanted to take a look at what it is like to go to a black college and explore the subculture of sororities and fraternities at a black college. I thought it was important to see black men at college and tell a story that we’ve never seen before in a unique way. For me, it was important to show my people that you can see blacks in sororities and fraternities in a positive light.
Q) Trevor, what made you want to be a part of the film?
Trevor: I think it was the script, but really what sold me to be a part of it was Gerard’s vision and passion for the project. I feel like you always want to work with people who do great work and put their all in it. I trusted him as the captain of the ship. Our director/actor relationship I feel was amazing and you can see it in the film. He was the main selling point as well as the other great actors and actresses. Everybody just wanted to do great work and, like I said, I always want to be around people like that.
Q) Gerard, when casting the role was there something you saw in Trevor that made you want to select him for the lead of Zurich?
Gerard: Yes, I remember I met Trevor and he was maybe fifteen or sixteen years old. I definitely knew he was the lead, but it took about four or five years to get the project going. He was always at the top of my list to be Zurich and I felt a connection with him. He auditioned for different roles, but I always knew he was Zurich. I definitely saw him on “American Crime” and he just blew me away! I thought he was definitely my guy. I knew he always was, but when our film finally came together it was right. He and Zurich were the same age. He read for the role and I was like, “Yep.” I was honored he was able to find time in his schedule to do the movie, but I always wanted him. It was just the timing working out perfectly.
Q) Trevor, was there something that you added to the role of Zurich that wasn’t originally scripted for you?
Trevor: When you have a great director I feel like any great director kind of lets you bring you to the role and find your character within yourself. I feel like Gerard did a great job of giving me some creative freedoms in terms of finding who Zurich was to me. But the great thing was why we did get along so well was because we communicated every day. I would always ask him, “What do you think about this?” We were just always communicating so we were always son the same page. I feel like that’s how you get the best product. So, I’d like to say I brought a little bit of T to Z and a little bit of Z to Trevor and a little bit of Gerard. It was all a collaboration and I’m happy.
Q) Now that hazing is illegal, how does that make you feel Gerard?
Gerard: It doesn’t make me feel good. I don’t think anybody should experience any kind of hazing, but it is not the main point of the film. That’s just one of the things we explore in the film.
Q) Trevor, what are some of the more significant scenes you are looking forward to fans seeing?
Trevor: I don’t know if I can pick. It’s so beautifully shot that every scene…Just the way he filmed it and threaded it together seamlessly, I don’t know if I could pick one scene. I feel like every scene is important and I feel like he made sure of that. I’ve seen the film a couple of times and some scenes were cut, but every scene that is in there now it has to be in there. It makes sense. I don’t know if I could pick.
Q) Gerard, are there certain scenes fans should pay special attention to and take to heart?
Gerard: I kind of feel the same way as Trevor. I can’t pick. It’s like picking your favorite children. I love all of my scenes. It completes the entire film. So, it is really hard for me to say one. I think all of them tell the story and get our point across to the audience. I really can’t pick because all of them mean something special to me. They all help tell the story.
Q) What is the main message you hope viewers take from watching “Burning Sands?”
Gerard: The main message is that it gives a window into a black college life, HBCU (Historically Black College), and the President of a black fraternity. Also, it’s about coming into your manhood. These guys go from boys to men. It’s just about finding yourself and also standing up, brotherhood and also manhood. Those are some things, especially young black men in this country I think they need to see different shades of African American men in all walks of life. So, I just think that overall it is about acceptance, manhood, brotherhood and standing up for what is right.
Q) Trevor, what did you take away personally from your role in the film?
Trevor: I took away a lot more information about fraternities that I had before I shot the movie. Honestly, I feel like me and Z were kind of at similar points in our lives where we were becoming men. I never went to college, but I was maybe the same age as Z or a bit younger when we shot it. It’s just doing what is right. I feel like that is a part of becoming an adult. It’s not everybody’s right. It’s your right and your truth. Owning your truth. I feel like that is what Z’s journey is for – what does he believe is right? Because he si in this fraternity and all of these people are agreeing on a certain thing so he’s acting as a group. It is a group, but he also has to think as an individual. So, I hope that people just take away that there is never a wrong or right way to your potential true self. We all have to go through struggles and I think the one thing that really pushed me when I was doing the role was the thruline. Whatever you are going through in life, it may be hard, people may say this or that and you may have to go through some physical obstacles, but you can get through it. You’re always strong enough. So, I want people to take that away for sure.
Q) Trevor, you are a part of social media. Are you looking forward to the fan response you will receiving?
Trevor: I think that’s why we do any work as entertainers. We want people to feel something when they watch you and really be touched. All we want to do is inspire and I think G did an incredible job doing that and I feel he is going to capture the hearts of the world with this movie.
Q) How does that make you feel, Gerard?
Gerard: That makes me feel good! Again, I’m just trying to tell a story in a subculture of a particular world. I think this film is for the world all over so I’m really happy that Netflix came on board and helped us. I feel like this film is going to get a lot of eyes on it through their platform. So, it makes me feel good that it is a great film and people are going to watch it. I think that will tell it all.