Producers Octavia Spencer and Forest Whitaker walked the red carpet last night with the cast, crew and stars supporting the LA Film Festival Gala Screening of “Fruitvale Station.” To bring you the inside scoop, we interviewed Academy Award Winner Octavia Spencer, Writer/Director Ryan Coogler, Melonie Diaz, Producer Nina Yang Bongiovi, Lance Gross (Tyler Perry’s “House of Payne”, “Temptation”), Robbie Jones (“90210”, “Temptation”) and Emayatzy Corinealdi (“Middle of Nowhere”.)
After winning the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award for U.S. dramatic film at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and Prize of the Future at Cannes 2013, “Fruitvale Station” is getting Oscar buzz. The film is based on a true and tragic story about how Oscar Grant (played by Michael B Jordan) spent his final day on New Years Eve in 2008/2009, and how it all ended suddenly at the Fruitvale Station in Oakland, CA.
When we asked Writer/Director Ryan Coogler, who went through the Sundance Screenwriting Lab, how he got involved in this project, he shared, “The actual shooting itself, it effected me like everyone else in the Bay Area. A lot of people reacted in different ways. Some people protested, some people went out and did demonstrations, some people rioted. It had a massive effect and a lot of reactions. For me, I was fortunate enough. I knew that I wanted to be a filmmaker at the time that it happened. So the idea to make a film about it that could hopefully promote some discussion that could prevent these situations from happening…, that was how the project came about in my mind.”
Academy Award Winner Octavia Spencer, who plays Oscar Grant’s mother, described her role in the movie, “It’s very difficult to play Wanda because she’s a real person who suffered a tremendous loss. Unfortunately for her, her son’s sad and tragic demise is a part of a very needed discussion nationally, and if that helps, I’m thrilled that I got to be a part of it.”
On a lighter note, we joked with Octavia Spencer about her speech at the 2013 Women In Film Oscar Party where she shared with conviction, “My name is Octavia Spencer, and I’m asking for money.” This declaration ties into “Fruitvale Station” because she is a producer, and a recent Women In Film and Sundance Institute Study with USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism showed that the number one barrier to women in the media is money. The same study also showed only 23% of producers are women. We’re so glad that Octavia was one of the 10 producers for this film, and that there were other female producers.
When we asked Melonie Diaz (who plays Oscar Grant’s girlfriend and mother to his 4-yr-old daughter) what it was like to be in the film, she gave a heartfelt response, “It meant a lot. It’s so rare when you get to be part of something that is so present and topical. Usually, I’m in these narratives that are about these made-up things, and so the fact that this is a real life occurrence…it feels good to actually be part of something that’s actually saying something.” You can follow her latest news @Melonie_Diaz.
Producer Nina Yang Bongiovi also added with a warm smile, “I hope the world will be able to see this film. This is such an important subject about how we treat each other, how there’s social injustice…I just really want everyone to see that we’re all just human beings….Hopefully, it will inspire people to be better to each other.”
With a cast of 96, Tracy “Twinkie” Bird spoke about her experience working on the casting, “It was an awesome, awesome experience. I worked with Ryan on his first short film called Fig,… and we decided to give it a go and work together again. It was all in the script, really, the script did everything.” Tracy did a lot of research on YouTube since there was so much posted, and especially studied the mom online.
Emayatzy Corinealdi, star of Sundance hit “Middle of Nowhere” was also there to support “Fruitvale Station.” With a big smile, Emayatzy emphasized, “There are some great films that are coming out and Sundance and LA Film Fest are supporting them, and it makes a huge difference so I’m really happy to be here tonight.”
We were also fortunate to interview “Temptations: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor” co-stars Lance Gross (Tyler Perry’s “House of Payne”) and Robbie Jones (“90210”, “Hawaii 5-0”,) which you can watch in our VIDEO: LA Film Fest – Fruitvale Station – Lance Gross, Robbie Jones.
Lance Gross is from Oakland, CA, and felt strongly about supporting the movie and Michael B Jordan (who plays Oscar Grant.) He has been on Tyler Perry’s “House of Payne” since 2007, and is getting ready to start filming a new NBC show called “Crisis.”
“Temptation” co-star Robbie Jones added, “I’m just really excited about seeing ‘Fruitvale Station.’ My man Michael B Jordan is in the film, and a good friend of mine Forest Whitaker also produced the film…We just had a film come out called ‘Temptation’ with my co-star Lance Gross, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Vanessa Williams, Kim Kardashian, Tyler Perry’s last film, it’s been going great this year.” “Temptation” is about a young woman who has been lead astray by a young billionaire (Harley, played by Robbie). Follow @LanceGross and @TheRobbieJones for more updates.
Many thanks to all the stars for coming out to support “Fruitvale Station.” And big thanks to The Weinstein Company for bringing this story to us. Go see this film, follow the news @FruitvaleMovie and watch for these stars on the red carpet at the 2014 Oscars.
© Liz H Kelly @LizHKelly, National Digital Entertainment Columnist and Goody Awards Founder http://goodyawards.com