Didn’t get enough of the red hot men from Red Tails? Here’s more of our sit-down with the cast as they talk about the performances of their peers in the film, what’s impactful about the film and what they all have coming up in 2012.
How do you feel about the performances of your peers?
Elijah Kelley: We’re portraying historical people. These gentlemen were amazing. Cuba Gooding Jr. and Terrence Howard have graced a stage that not many African Americans have graced, ever and that’s the Academy Awards. Cuba as a recipient and Terrence as a nominee. Being in the company of those men—they’re living legends. They’re writing and rewriting history that no one thought would ever happen. For that to be tangible and feel feasible gives me hope for the things I want to do in this profession.
Ne-Yo: It’s safe to say I’m the novice here. They hate when I say that, but it’s true. Towards the beginning of the movie when we’re finding out that we may get shut down, Cuba has this really powerful monologue. Anthony made him do this monologue like 12 times. Every time he did it, it was different from the time before. It blew my damn mind! The same group of words, but every time he did it, it was a different emotion. That’s the definition of acting. I will take these words and make you feel differently every time I deliver them to you. Each time, you’re going to feel them. That’s the level I aspire to get to. Having him on set, Terrence on set and these guys that are in the same age bracket as me, doing the amazing things they do made me want to step it up to be a part of this film..
Cuba Gooding Jr.: When I started acting in the 90’s, everyone was fighting to get in to one movie. Please don’t think I’m ragging on the Wayans Brothers, but the only thing we could fight for was I’m Gonna Get You Sucka. A lot of us were from Shakespeare, but we were trying to get a role in that movie because that’s what they were greenlighting and people were getting paychecks for. They’d go for the hottest rapper or something. Look at these men now on-screen [motions to Ne-Yo, Elijah and Tristan]—they say they look up to us!
What’s impactful about Red Tails today?
Nate Parker: It’s important that we know for an identity standpoint, who we are and what we come from, as America and as a black community. People with knowledge of self is like a tree without roots. In our community, so many of our young people have no roots. They’re not bearing fruit because they don’t know who they are. With a story like this that tells this triumph and of these men of excellence that maximize their capacity, is something we can take in the community and say, “This is you and this is you now!” We limit ourselves when we say that was then, why do they need to know? We are our past. It’s the fabric of who we are. If we’re miseducated about who we were, then we’re going to go forward with a perverted idea of who we are and we’re stuck wondering why we’re not progressing. Stories like this are important because we can go back and say, “How did they deal with adversity then?” One of the sayings we had was, “Through adversity to the stars.” We said it to ourselves all the time because it reminded us of what we have to go through to get to excellence. There’s no one without the other—no future without the past.
There’s so much controversy from a movie like The Help that showed domestics….
David Oyelowo: You make the point brilliantly there—why the movie needs to be made. Those were maids, we were fighter pilots. They’re downtrodden and these guys were triumphant. They helped save the world, literally. That’s a story that very rarely has been told cinematically. That’s why this is a beautiful counterbalance to that film that had its own merit.
What’s next for all of you?
Elijah Kelley: I’ll be playing Cuba Gooding Jr. in the Cuba Gooding Jr. story. [laughs] I did a small indie film that will probably be in Sundance next year called The Boys of Abu Ghraib and it’s about this group of soldiers that go over to Afghanistan during our recent war and try to relieve some of the insurgents that have been wrongly accused. It’s based on a true story. I started out in Hairspray, singing and dancing, epically inspired by these guys so I’ll wet my foot in music next.
Cuba Gooding Jr.: Wet my foot? [laughs]
Elijah Kelley: That’s what my granddad used to say! [laughs] My thing is this—in film, if you’ve followed my career, there’s been a gap since Hairspray. I don’t settle for mediocrity. I did a film that spoke volumes on all levels and I waited for another one to do the same thing. I want to transfer that energy into my music. I think it would be nothing less than presentable at base. If it becomes more than that, then I’m ecstatic.
Ne-Yo: I’m putting together a brand new album as we speak. The running title is The Cracks in Mr. Perfect. It speaks on the perfection that is imperfection. It’s about the more human side of Ne-Yo. No Ne-Yo the celebrity or even Ne-Yo the singer/songwriter, but Ne-Yo the man and the things we deal with as men and human beings. Sometimes as a celebrity, you’re expected to be perfect. You’re not allowed to have a bad day or not want to deal with people. The one day you decide to do that, you’re an asshole. We’re human beings. Everyone is entitled to not feel like it one day. This album expresses that celebrity, whatever, artist, whatever, human being first. I’m not perfect nor am I trying to be. That’s relatable to everybody. Look for the record around April or May. I also have a few artists coming out on my own label. I’m doing something most labels don’t do anymore—grooming, artist development. Look out for Loren Allred and Ravaughn Brown—two females I’ve been working on right now. One is pop and one is R&B. Outside of entertainment, I have a hat line I put out that was just picked up by Saks Fifth Avenue, called Francis Ellargo. The hats are unisex, but I’m a guy, so they’re guys hats. They’re fedoras right now. Also, I am the official Chief Creative Executive for Malibu Red, which is a new drink from Malibu. It’s Malibu rum and Silver tequila.
Cuba Gooding Jr.: I’ve just got another movie coming out—Crew Nine. That’s all I got. [laughs] It’s the true story about a women’s prison in the 1990’s and in this program, they allowed women prisoners to come out and fight fires. They did great things—doctors, lawyers and what not after they’d been in prison. I organize the program and help these women. It’s a theme—me being blessed to work with a younger generation. Wait until you see these young black and Spanish women—22-25 year old and they give performances in this piece that will blow you away. It’s a feature film, not in the theaters, but on ABC and the Hallmark Channel on Mother’s Day—April 27th.
Tristan Wilds: As you guys know, I’m still doing 90210, four seasons, hopefully a fifth. I also just released an EP on my personal blog called Remember Remember. It’s on meetmack.tumblr.com. Right now, I’m working on an album, looking up to my big brothers [Ne-Yo and Elijah] for inspiration and help. It’s going to be great.