The cast of "BlacKkKlansman" at the festival of Cannes. Photo by Georges Biard, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=69470152
California School of the Arts

Laura Harrier and Topher Grace from ‘BlacKkKlansman’ share their experience on this groundbreaking film

“BlacKkKlansman” is a biographical crime film based off the autobiographical book “The Black Klansman,” by Ron Stallworth, portrayed by John David Washington. Stallworth, a black detective in Colorado Springs, Colo., goes undercover and infiltrates their local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. He handles the talking over the phone while his partner Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) portrays Stallworth in face-to-face situations with the Klan.

Along the way, they encounter other characters, such as Patrice Dumas (Laura Harrier), the president of the Black Student Union at their local college, and David Duke (Topher Grace) the Grand Wizard of the Klan. Their mission: to gather intel on the Klan and what they plan to do that may pose as a threat to the people of Colorado Springs.

David Duke, a well-known white nationalist, surprised America in his manner of delivering his white-supremacist ideas. He was a former Republican Louisiana State Representative, a candidate in the Democratic presidential primaries in 1988 and the Republican presidential primaries in 1992.

“I knew who David Duke was but I had to do so much research to play this role. You can see how well spoken and well educated he is,” Grace said. “He had a new idea of how the ideas could get out and get out to more people. So I think that’s what makes him so evil. He kind of rebranded racism.”

topher grace giant mechanical man premiere 2   copy Laura Harrier and Topher Grace from BlacKkKlansman share their experience on this groundbreaking film
Topher Grace stars as the pivotal role of David Duke in the film the “BlacKkKlansman.” Photo by Sachyn, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20211570

Harrier, who played the president of the BSU at Colorado College, reached out to Alumni Association at Colorado College about the BSU and visited former Black Panther Party leader Kathleen Cleaver.

“Spike introduced us and that was just really inspiring. [Cleaver] is such a strong figure and such an intelligent woman and has done so much,” Harrier said. “I really agree with my character’s worldview and the fact that you need to use your voice and platform that you have for good and to help people if you are able to.”

img 1999 Laura Harrier and Topher Grace from BlacKkKlansman share their experience on this groundbreaking film
Jeremy Hsiao interviews Laura Harrier who stars as Patrice Dumas in the “BlacKkKlansman.” Photo by Andy Hsiao

Visionary Spike Lee directed the “BlacKkKlansman,” and also directed films such as “Do The Right Thing” and “Malcolm X.” Most of his films circulate around race relations, urban crime and colorism in the black community.

“I think he’s so brilliant. He’s one of the greatest filmmakers ever. He treats every crewmember with so much respect and everyone is really valued,” Harrier said. “He has such a specific eye and vision. Nothing in our film is there just by happenstance.”

Not only did Lee envision how he would create this movie, he incorporated comedy and excitement into this would-be heavy topic both on set and in the movie.

“Spike Lee is an artist and he’s saying something,” Grace said. “Spike keeps the set kind of like the movie. It’s a very serious subject matter but it’s a lot of fun and very entertaining.”

Ron Stallworth attended the very first table read. He told his story for 45 minutes, and then actors proceeded to perform the movie with Stallworth’s experience and story in mind.

“He opened up his wallet and he took out his KKK membership card and passed it around the table. It was an amazing moment for everyone in the cast,” Grace said. “I think it’s one of those things where we couldn’t make the movie if it hadn’t happened because it’s so unbelievable. Truth is stranger than fiction.”

The film begins with footage from the Civil War and the last scenes are videos of real life KKK rallies, our current president speaking to the people, David Duke, and the protests a year ago in Charlottesville. Lee ties together two timelines in the “BlacKkKlansman.”

“I think that Spike has a pretty clear point of view, and I don’t think you can dispute what we’re saying in this film because this all really happened,” Harrier said. “I just hope [the film] starts a conversation. I hope it gets people talking and questioning things and maybe looking at the world a different way.”

img 1998 Laura Harrier and Topher Grace from BlacKkKlansman share their experience on this groundbreaking film
Jeremy Hsiao with actress Laura Harrier, Patrice Dumas in “BlacKkKlansman.” Photo by Andy Hsiao

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