I AM ROGUE
February 9, 2015
by Jami Philbrick
English actor Joe Anderson is best known for his work in such films as Control, Across the Universe, The Crazies, The Grey, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1, A Single Shot, Horns, and Hercules. He can now be seen in the acclaimed new drama Supremacy, which was directed by first time filmmaker Deon Taylor.
Supremacy is based on a true story and revolves around a recently paroled white supremacist named Garrett Tully (Anderson). After Tully and his girlfriend (Julie Benz) kill a cop, they take an African American family hostage. Mr. Walker (Danny Glover), the patriarch of the family and an ex-con himself, must now rely on his wit and understanding of the racist mind to find a plan to free his family. In addition to Anderson, Benz, and Glover, the film also stars Derek Luke (Captain America: The First Avenger), Lela Rochon (Any Given Sunday), and Anson Mount (Non-Stop).
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Joe Anderson about his work on Supremacy. The talented actor discussed his new film, how he got involved with the project, his character as it was originally written in the script, the true story the film is based on, working with Danny Glover, the relationship between Tully and Mr. Walker, and what he hopes audiences will take away from the film.
Here is what Joe Anderson had to say about Supremacy:
IAR: To begin with, how did you get involved with Supremacy?
Joe Anderson: I got sent the script via my agent from a casting director who’s been a bit of a champion of mine for a while. The moment I read it I saw some challenges within the script that I thought was something I wanted to take on. That being that the protagonist of the story is actually the antagonist, and trying to add some humanity to the character as opposed to making him a one-note psychopath. I was trying to figure out why this guy is doing what he’s doing and allowing that to seep through the script.
How was the character originally conceived in the script? Was he written as a “one-note psychopath?”
Anderson: To be honest, yes he was. There wasn’t too many redeeming qualities to him and it was rather thin in places of the dialogue. Consequently we had to improvise quite a bit on the set. Always when you take a script to a physical set sometimes things don’t quite match up to a physical world. But the sheer fact that it is a hostage situation, defining the balance between having a extremely high stakes and an extremely high pulse rate for the movie, and allowing at the same time to seek conflicts within the character and within the decisions that he’s making within. Also then the ideology change of the white supremacist towards the end of the movie was quite a big challenge to try and make that change. So that was one of the things that were quite tricky. It crescendos a quiet moment, it pauses the moment where you let people breathe as opposed to it being a pounding train heading down a track getting faster and faster. That can become a little relentless. It was definitely one of the things that I wanted to tackle. I think white supremacy is ridiculous and any type of racism from one city to another in any direction is ridiculous. That was the main reason for me taking on the movie was the fact that the character, I wouldn’t say comes full circle, but definitely realizes the errors of his ideology.
Supremacy is based on real events. Did you talk to anyone for research who was involved with the true story, or did you just stick to the script to prepare for your role?
Anderson: No I really didn’t. There wasn’t “A” enough time, and “B” it was never really been offered up. I know the Walker family turned up to one of the premieres and were there, but I never saw them on set. I never really got a chance to speak to them to see what their take on it was, and equally I never really got a chance to speak to the Tully character either. Really I just had this script to go on and that was it.
I spoke to director Deon Taylor last summer when Supremacy premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival. He mentioned that due to veteran actor Danny Glover’s age and life experience, he was at times uncomfortable with the film’s subject matter and the racially fueled scenes that he had to perform with you. Did you have a sense of that on set, and what was your experience like acting with Mr. Glover.
Anderson: There was never any discussion between Danny and I. I think he said two words to me throughout the whole filming of the movie.
Really? Was he trying to stay “in-character” throughout filming?
Anderson: I don’t know. I can’t speak for Danny. I approached things collaboratively. I like to discuss stuff and keep it a team effort. That was possible with some of the other actors, just not so much with Danny. It allowed me to be free to do what I wanted to do really.
Was it difficult for you to work with another actor in that way?
Anderson: No, not at all. You meet all kinds of actors and everybody has a slightly different process. No one’s process is right or wrong. I don’t need to have a collaborative process with somebody. I’d love to have a collaborative process, I would prefer to have a collaborative process, but it’s not something that I require. It’s not something that would affect me as an actor, or I feel would affect the character because really I was in the driving seat in a sense. There were times when I chose to, or when Tully chose to, listen to Mr. Walker and absorb what he was saying to Tully, which was really sort of up to me. I’ve worked with all different kinds of actors and all types of directors. Sometimes directors want to be collaborative, and sometimes they want to rule with an iron fist. Either way I’m happy. That’s part of my job as an actor. If you say jump, I say how high? How do you want me to do it? If you don’t say jump, then I’ll say, what happens if I jump right here? Really I try to be as flexible as possible and go to the material. Danny is a legend in his own right. It was never a thing that worried me. For me it was just part of the way the movie worked.
Can you talk about the unusual relationship that forms in the film between Tully and Mr. Walker?
Anderson: In the movie and within the script, it’s an interesting balance between the circumstance of the hostage situation and Tully realizing that there’s no way out of this situation at some point. So it was a fine balance between what Mr. Walker was saying to me in the latter half of the third act when the situation physically had reached a climax, and Tully reaching a breaking point where he was open and susceptible enough for a conversation about ideology. Mr. Walker said what he said to him in that kitchen area, and due to Tully’s physical situation being surrounded by cops at that stage was open to listening to him. He realized that maybe the way he had been thinking about things was flawed. When you realize you’ve spent most of your life thinking about something in one way and you realize it’s kind of flawed, you go for a quick panic. I definitely know that I’ve thought about certain things in the wrong way before, and when it’s been shown to me the other way, I think I’ve screwed up and I question my being so to speak. I think that what Mr. Walker was saying to him at that moment in the movie was the turning point for Garrett Tully.
Finally, Supremacy deals with some very difficult issues such as race and equality. Do you think the movie adequately tackled those themes, and what do you hope audiences will take away from seeing the film?
Anderson: I think it was an incredibly brave move for Deon Taylor to take on a story where his protagonist/antagonist is a white supremacist. I hope that Deon’s bravery, as a new director, will inspire other filmmakers to approach the race situation maybe from another point of view. I hope this movie inspires people to make films that make people aware that it’s not just a one sided thing, although it has been within history. I hope people wake up to the fact that we’re all living in the same bedroom, and we’re either all going to kill each other or we’re going to learn how to keep the bedroom tidy, and live together and respect it. When you base a movie in such a tense atmosphere as a hostage situation, it can be incredibly difficult to allow moments to breathe and have conversations about what is within the movie. I hope that throughout all the intensity, the times where we desperately tried to allow those moments to happen really shine through due to the amount of intensity. In other words, I just hope it encourages other people to be brave and make people aware of issues through cinema. That’s the whole point of cinema, as well as independent film.