English actor Will Poulter plays a repugnant, racist cop in the forthcoming film DETROIT. However, in real life, the accomplished actor is very, very woke.
Anyone watching the film will be taken aback by how well Poulter portrays Philip Krauss, a murderous Detroit police officer at the center of an incident at the Algiers Motel that left multiple young Black men dead during the riots of 1967.
During a DETROIT press junket, Poulter was candid about how he prepped for the role and secured an invite to the cookout in the process.
“Preparing to play a racist first and foremost…the biggest challenge, of course, is you’re not going to find any justification in the behavior,” said Poulter at the Detroit Foundation Hotel. “As an actor, you try to find something you identify with, that you can relate to, that you can respect. There was nothing in our [police] characters that we could really latch onto and relate to beyond the fact that we were white males, right? We have that privilege.”
Poulter said it—white privilege. Before you get your alt-right panties in a bunch, hear him out.
He added, “I took a look at the ignorant thought structures that inform racist behavior, and it’s a bunch of bullsh*t. It’s a bunch of mythology and white propaganda and mistruths about other ethnicity groups. And you have to sort of embrace that and convince yourself in order to do what we do in the movie.”
“Heavy” is one of the first things this writer thought after screening the Kathryn Bigelow-directed film. The same heinous examples of injustice occurring in the film yet mirroring modern times (see: Eric Garner and Mike Brown as examples) prove that not enough progress has been made.
Poulter admitted he didn’t necessarily have the answers both small (as in keeping racist officers off the force) or great (combating institutional racism), but he did have a worthy suggestion.
“The first step we can all take is by educating ourselves where we lack knowledge, understanding the experiences of other people, shedding light on social injustices like the ones you see in this film, and developing empathy and compassion for ethnicity groups outside of our own,” Poulter said.
Then he dropped this jewel.
“As a white person and as white people when we’re invited to participate in the conversation, we absolutely have to participate. It’s not acceptable to avoid the topic of race and racism anymore because as long as we shy away from that, we contribute to the problem.”
Church, tabernacle, sanctuary.
While much has been said, and justifiably, about the issue of a white director (Bigelow) telling this story, the African-American cast that includes John Boyega, Algee Smith and Anthony Mackie was formidable.
DETROIT is in theaters nationwide August 4.
Photo: screen cap