Cape Town - We know and love him for his quick wit and charm in the popular Fast & Furious movie franchise. Though many would be surprised that in his natural element, Tyrese Gibson isn’t all about making jokes. The 40-year-old is currently filming Fast & Furious 9 in London, set to be released in 2020 and features Charlize Theron again.
But he also appears as Milo Jackson in the movie Black and Blue.
Tyrese stars in this nail-biting thriller about police corruption alongside Naomie Harris. Oscar nominee Naomie plays Alicia West, a rookie cop who captures the murder of a young drug dealer on her body camera. After realising that the murder was committed by corrupt police officials who are now after her, she teams up with Milo who is willing to help her escape both the criminals out for revenge and the police who are desperate to destroy the incriminating footage.
We caught up with the actor and singer as he promotes the movie now showing in local cinemas.
Why did you decide to get involved with this production?
We have been on the receiving end of a lot of beat-downs, a lot of drugs being planted on us, abuse in power, excessive force and murder. People sign up to be police officers and they take a vow of oath to treat us right and protect us. You call 911 for help, you don’t call 911 to get jacked, so you know there has been a lot going on here in America when it comes to corruption and cover-ups, and I just think this movie is timely.
What conversation do you hope Black and Blue will start?
As much as we are dealing with what we are dealing with in America specifically, Naomie Harris is from London. She has her own experiences as a black woman – with racism, bigotry, excessive force, abuse – and she said the amount of black men who are perfectly healthy that are murdered in the UK, not one person in law enforcement has ever been prosecuted. We deal with that in America and you guys deal with it in Africa. Apartheid just ended, it is very fresh.
We dealt with slavery and the civil-rights issues, you guys deal with apartheid where Winnie Mandela said they were killing us like flies. So there is this condescending energy that’s out there and if you put a badge and a gun on a racist and say that you could legally do whatever you want to do to me and you not going to have any repercussions, that’s a problem.
Out here in America it is a fact you can google and look up on YouTube, there are Ku Klux Klan members that are police officers right now and have been in the past. So if you have someone who is specifically a racist and he hates black people, Jews, Mexicans or Latinos what do you expect his behaviour to be once he puts on a badge and a gun?
How did you prepare to portray Milo?
I can relate with my character because I grew up in South Central LA, Watts. I was born and raised in Watts and if you google it or look it up, my city that I was born and raised in, which is right next to Compton, is specifically known for the Watts riots. The Watts rebellion of 1965, and there is video footage all over the internet of when Dr Martin Luther King Jr was sent to Watts by the president to try to calm things down during the riots.
Why should people go out to watch Black and Blue?
This movie touches on real stuff that’s going on so this is my invite. If you are a non-black and you live in the suburbs, you’re safe, comfortable and cosy, I want you to show up even more because I want you to know how it’s like to be black in Africa, to be black in America.
I want you to know first-hand and just get a greater sense of what it is like to live and breathe in these pressure cookers. Because it doesn’t matter if you are rich, it doesn’t matter if you’re a local hip-hop, R&B star or you’re a rapper, everyone can get it. If all you had to do was become a celebrity to stop you from being killed then where are Biggie [The Notorious B.I.G.] and Tupac?
I just really hope people show up to watch this movie because there are so many statements being made in this movie that are important for people to see and I just hope the light switch goes off in some people’s heads to say, “I’m aware of corruption; I’m aware of scammers; I’m aware of who shot and killed; who planted drugs; I’m aware of judges who sent people that were black to prison for much longer periods than they did white people; I’m aware and I want to do the right thing and speak out”. This movie is serious and it’s a real invite for all of my people in South Africa to show up and be a part of something that really matters to the culture.
You spoke out about too many movies showing black people in the slavery light and that we do not need any more of them, what kind of movies do you think should be made now?
We should make movies like this that really address what we’re living and dealing with and how we feel in the inner city. Here’s the thing, there hasn’t been 30 movies about the Holocaust and this is one of the most traumatic times for the entire Jewish community and my daughter is Jewish. This is a traumatic time that the Jewish community still deal with mentally, emotionally and spiritually. When it comes to slavery, whether you’re African or African American, it’s something we still feel.
To continue releasing movies that shed light on this topic and all of the different stories of this topic, I think it’s insensitive to just keep making the same movies. There are so many more topics surrounding us as black people, highs, lows, success, billionaires, millionaires, Wall Street, real estate . . . there are also challenges in the boardrooms and corporate America, there are so many different topics and things to talk about. Why do they keep green-lighting and making movies pertaining to slavery?
After Black and Blue, what other projects are you putting out?
I am wrapping up a double album, I am also wrapping up my third book. I just finished shooting Fast Nine and I just finished a Marvel Comics movie called Morbius. Life is just good and I am really happy to be able to take advantage of these opportunities that could be going to anyone else but me, but now that they have fallen onto my lap I am just really grateful to be able to do this.