The Blackening is the unapologetically Black film that will be in theaters just in time for Juneteenth weekend. I’m already dubbing this one a cult classic. In an exclusive interview with Taji Mag, actors Melvin Gregg, Antoinette Robertson, and Jay Pharoah open up about what it was like to work on such a revolutionary film. They share their thoughts on representation in Hollywood, some known Spades rules, and their ideal horror films.
Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): Was it refreshing working on an unapologetically Black movie? And if yes, how so?
Melvin Gregg (MG): I could be unapologetically Black. A lot of times, I feel like I gotta kind of pull my Blackness back a little bit just because of the contrast to the task, but here I could be what’s really comfortable for me, which is an actor. You don’t always want to be comfortable, but it’s nice sometimes, especially in comedy.
Antoinette Robertson (AR): It’s nice that we weren’t diluting anything down. We came as our full selves. We weren’t making it palatable for anyone. We were just being ourselves. I really love the idea of Black people just being themselves on screen instead of being an idea of what Blackness is.
Jay Pharoah (JP): The freeness of being able to talk like you talk when white people aren’t around.
AR: No code-switching.
JP: Yes, no code-switching.
MG: Sometimes, it is automatic. I feel like people are saying “Why are you doing that?”, but it’s ingrained in us when some people are around. It’s not like you trying to put on some shit.
DDF: There’s definitely an uncredited star of the film…the game of Spades. If your partner is terrible at spades or does not know how to play, are they invited to the family cookout?
MG: They can come, but they can’t sit at the table. Just go do something else.
AR: If you would like to maintain a good relationship with anybody (best friend, friend, family member, husband, wife, whatever the case may be), don’t let them be your Spades partner, ESPECIALLY if they can’t play. It’s different if you guys [could] read each other’s minds. If you can’t play, you can’t sit at the table.
JP: You gotta sit at the kid’s table. Where your knees are touching the edge of the table.
DDF: Out of all your castmates, who would you choose as your Spades partner and why?
AR: Grace (Byers)
MG: You chose Grace because she was your partner in the movie.
MG: I would choose Grace or X (Mayo) because they know how to play. Jay doesn’t know how to play.
JP: What? Where did that come from?
MG: You said you prefer to play Uno.
JP: No, I did not. I said I preferred to play Phase 10. I never said I didn’t know how to play Spades.
MG: I didn’t feel the passion when we talked about it…Spades is a passion thing.
JP: I make my books, bro. I make my books. I stand on that.
MG: I remember you talked about Crystal Light and Phase 10.
JP: I talked about Crystal Light because I don’t drink Kool-Aid.
AR: Your Black Card is getting revoked right now.
PH: How is my Black Card getting revoked right now?
MG: It’s not getting revoked, it’s under review.
DDF: Could you be in a horror film outside of The Blackening? Who would be your co-star, and who would be the villain?
AR: I’m going with Chucky as my villain and I am going with Blackface (an antagonist in The Blackening) to be my co-star because he is six foot six with big feet, and he’d kicked the shit outta that doll.
JP: My villain would be the Jeepers Creepers character. My co-star would be Sinqua Walls because we’ve known each other for like three years. I think we would find a way to mess him up so he wouldn’t eat us, you know what I mean? We’d probably do something like cut his wings off and barbecue them, some shit like that.
AR: That’s so dark.
JP: How’s it dark? Cut his wings off and barbecue them.
AR: You don’t have to eat him, though.
PH: Because I’m a Libra and we gotta do things on the scale. You know what I mean? We gotta keep it equal on both sides.
MG: I’d choose X (Mayo), and my villain would be The Leprechaun. The Leprechaun would talk shit, but X would too.
DDF: In keeping with Black traditions, there’s a Kool-Aid making scene in the film. What’s your personal recipe for Kool-Aid?
AR: It is not the diabetes version that he (Melvin) makes in the film.
MG: I’m not feeding my kids Kool-Aid. I look back at my parents and I’m like, “Why would you have me drink Kool-Aid?”. Why DID I grow up drinking Kool-Aid? It’s just sugar and water. I ain’t made Kool-Aid in so long.
JP: Crystal light. That’s my recipe for Kool-Aid. That’s why I’ll make Crystal Light. What did Chappelle say? Sugar, water, purple? I remember we had the blue and red flavors at my house twice. My mother was like, “you know, I’m out on this Kool-Aid”.
MG: It’s hilarious. One of my cousins, I took him to Florida. This n***a ain’t never been nowhere before, and he was at the restaurant. The restaurant employee was like, “What do you wanna drink?”. He was like, “red”. Then the guy was like, “Red what?”. Then my cousin was like, “Y’all ain’t got red? Like Hawaiin Punch? Y’all got purple?” and all of my friends from college, they were looking at him like “Yo, who is this?”
DDF: That’s hilarious. Thanks for sharing. So, what do you want the audience to remember about your character?
AR: Lisa is like every Black woman in America, there’s a lot bubbling. We could use a little bit more kindness. Protect black women a little bit more or we might, you know, lose our shit like Lisa did in the movie.
MG: King is resilient. You know? You knock him down and he gets back up and keeps fighting.
JP: I want them to take away my character. He’s a bit overzealous. A little too trusting. That’s what I want them to take away…and Black Lives Matter.