Detroit, MI – The young careers of Jason Mitchell and Algee Smith have already been promising. Breaking out as Eazy-E in 2015’s Straight Outta Compton and Ralph Tresvant in this year’s New Edition biopic respectively, both Jason and Algee’s trajectory couldn’t be higher.
Kathryn Bigelow’s visceral and harrowing new movie Detroit based on real events brings the two together with the 1967 civil uprising in Detroit as the backdrop. Algee plays Larry Cleveland Reed, lead singer of soul group The Dramatics and Jason depicts 17-year-old Carl Cooper, who was viciously executed by a white Detroit police officer.
HipHopDX was able to catch up with both Jason and Algee in Detroit as they got ready for the world premiere of the film to discuss their young careers and the importance of stories like the one told in Detroit.
“It [has] been an awakening,” Jason exclaims. “When you have talent you always have something inside of you [that] you feel like you need to show to the world but you go through a thing where you’re like, ‘Am I crazy? Am I tripping?’ So it’s good to finally be able to show myself to the world and they respond the way we thought they would.”
Algee chimed in, smiling, “For me, I’ve always known I wanted to be in entertainment and I’ve always seen myself like that but dealing with projects that actually mean something to culture, touches peoples hearts, and makes people walk away feeling a different way? That’s something I never could ask for. But it has just been overwhelming with all the love that we get. People genuinely see you on that screen and feel like they’re connected to you. Just getting that love has been the best.”
The Algiers Motel Massacre, which claimed three Black lives while ruining several others, is something that touched both cast members and allowed them to be educated on history through this movie.
“Me personally, I knew a little bit about the riots,” says Algee. “All the rebellions that took place within the U.S. period [but] we just found out [during the course of shooting this movie] that there were over 350 rebellions that took place within 1965 to 1969. So you could see the energy of people back in that time. This has just been a learning experience for me. Like I said, I didn’t really know nothing so getting into this role has just been, everyday we’re on set it’s just learning. Like, ‘Damn this is really what they had to do?’”
Jason added: “You go through this process where you constantly have to humble yourself. We’re very prideful people. We got a whole lot of soul and a whole lot of spirit but when you realize how naïve you are because up the street this is going on and you think social media is updating you? This happened 50 years ago. Why don’t we know this? But this is why we did this film and we’re just giving people a block of history to go check out [to] educate yourself.”
Drawing on similarities between 1967 and today, Algee eloquently touches on the challenges we still face. “One of the taglines for the movie, and you can see it on the poster, is ‘It’s Time We Knew,” Algee emphatically states. “I feel like this is a perfect time. We see the clear reflection of back in the day and today. There’s really no difference within that system, that justice system we’re looking at right now. It’s time that we know. It’s time it doesn’t get swept under the rug and that Hollywood knows – that everyone else outside of Hollywood knows. It’s amazing that they’re telling these stories now. They’re pushing them through and we get to be a part of that.”
Detroit is currently in theaters in theaters nationwide.