A major contender to win big this upcoming awards season is “Moonlight”. The indie film directed by Barry Jenkins has been captivating audiences around the nation. The coming of age story addresses the oftentimes taboo topic of homosexuality in the black community. Within three acts, using three different actors, Jenkins poignantly tells the story of Chiron who literally grows up in front of the audience’s eyes. From being a latch-key kid of a drug addicted single mother to constantly being bullied for being gay, Chiron’s life is far from easy but his friend Kevin is his refuge.
Actor Andre Holland who plays the eldest Kevin in the latter half of the film speaks exclusively to the L.A. Sentinel about masculinity in the black community, the importance of role models for men of color and the film’s ambiguous ending.
LAS: What are your thoughts on how some actors prefer not to play gay characters because they don’t want their sexual preferences in their personal life to be under suspicion?
AH: I don’t feel any types of reservations what so ever because it’s about the story, the characters and if the people feel real and three dimensional. If the story resonates with me then I feel like it’s my job to step into those roles and bring those characters to life. I feel like my masculinity will be in tact regardless of what types of roles I choose to take on.
LAS: For someone who feels like the main character Chiron, how do you go about accepting yourself.
AH: Chiron wasn’t really living an authentic life, he was actually living a pretty dangerous life. I think that if he and Kevin had not reconnected, he would have gone the way of Juan (Mahershala Ali) and he would have some how fallen victim to the streets.
The one thing that these two boys didn’t have in their lives were male role models. Whether or not you have the type of parents that support you, seek out people in your community that you can look up to and surround yourself with them, that’s a great place to start.
LAS: The movie ends without a resolution. What do you want the audience to takeaway after seeing the film?
AH: Barry [Jenkins, the director] didn’t tie the story up with a bow by showing them getting married and living happily ever after because that’s not the reality of what it would be. If you look at what it means to be a gay man of color in America–we saw what happened with the shooting in the Orlando nightclub. It would be a disservice to think that just because these men acknowledged that they care about each other, love each other and want to be together, that’s not the end of the story. It’s actually only the beginning because of the world we live in; they would still have a lot of issues ahead of them to navigate.
I love the last shot in the film where young Chiron walks to the edge of the water and he looks out at the ocean; to me that signifies that he’s at the beginning of his journey, he hasn’t arrived anywhere. In order for these two men to get to a place where they can be in a relationship, they’d have to shed all these masks of masculinity, heartache and suffering that they’ve had to endure in order to get to a place where they can be authentic with each other. Let’s be open and vulnerable with each other to get the conversation started. I love the ending because it feels more real instead of trying to resolve in 90 minutes something that hasn’t been resolved in hundreds of years.
LAS: What type of direction did Barry Jenkins give you to ensure you were in sync with the emotional aspects of the storyline?
AH: Barry didn’t let us connect with the younger actors so we never saw any of their scenes, we never met them ahead of time. He kept us all separate and his motivation for doing that was to ensure that we didn’t fall into just mimicking one another, he wanted us to get inside the experience of these people and get down to the essence of who these characters are. I think it’s a credit to his incredible direction that he cast the right people; not necessarily people who looked exactly alike but they felt alike.
The challenging aspect was, when I first read the script, I thought there must be a resolution, there must be a real dynamic speech with tears; you look for those moments when you’re reading a script then I realized, no it’s not what it’s about. It’s about two brown people sitting in a room, thinking, feeling and trying to figure stuff out and that’s not something that we see on screen very often. Usually we’re not the primary, central character having a psychological experience that’s progressing the story forward.
It was a challenge for me as an actor because there wasn’t an easily identifiable objective. Barry was both specific and collaborative; he gave the actors room to explore. He’s previously said this film is reminiscent of where he’s from. His goal was to bring art house to the hood and he did that in a really beautiful way. There’s no code switching–he gives a real sense of what it actually is. It’s an artful experience, I hope to work with him many times over.