Safety key art

Source: Courtesy Walt Disney Studios / Walt Disney Studios

Disney just unveiled the trailer for their newest film, SAFETY, a drama inspired by the empowering story of former Clemson University safety, Ray McElrathbey, which will premiere on Disney+ December 11. Global Grind’s Sr. Content Director Janeé Bolden interviewed Oscar® nominated director Reginald Hudlin (HOUSE PARTY, DJANGO UNCHAINED, MARSHALL) about the movie. Watch the trailer below then continue reading for the exclusive Q&A.

Disney’s “Safety” stars Jay Reeves (ALL AMERICAN) and is a drama inspired by the empowering story of former Clemson University safety Ray McElrathbey, a young man facing a series of challenging circumstances, whose dedication and persistence help him to triumph over repeated adversities. Aided by his teammates and the Clemson community, he succeeds on the field while simultaneously raising and caring for his 11-year-old brother Fahmarr.

“It was great because Ray was there,” Hudlin told Global Grind about recreating McElrathbey’s story for the screen. “He’s still a young man, he was on set, he was working with the actors; they would workout together, they would party together and he was just a fantastic resource for all of us. It’s the kind of story where if it weren’t a true story you’d all go, ‘That’s ridiculous, that’s unbelievable,’ so having him there to make sure that we were being true to the true elements of his story made the whole process better.”

Reginald Hudlin on the set of Safety

Source: Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios / Walt Disney Studios

The project stars Jay Reeves as McElrathbey and Hudlin said the actor’s athleticism was just as pivotal as his acting chops in securing the role.

“We just wanted the best people” Hudlin said of the casting process. “We had a two part audition where they would come and read the scenes and then we would come back and have them audition on a football field, so we were like, okay let’s see if you can do this. Everyone you see in the movie, they can run, they can catch, they can throw. We wanted real athletes and not Hollywood fakeness. I think that’s one of the reasons why everything reads very real because we wanted real people who could do real things.”

Reginald Hudlin on the set of Safety

Source: Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios / Walt Disney Studios

One of the biggest reasons we’re excited about ‘SAFETY’ is because the film offers such a positive representation of young black men.

“It’s very important to me,” Hudlin said of the powerful way the film portrays the McElrathbey brothers and their story. “That’s been sort of my agenda throughout my career, whether it’s been ‘House Party’ or ‘Boomerang’ or ‘Marshall’ or ‘The Black Godfather,’ or this movie or ‘Django Unchained.’ I want to show the full humanity of black life and particularly black men who tend to be either stereotyped or dismissed and I thought this movie was a really beautiful movie because it was a true story about brotherhood.”

“So many young people are caught in situations where they are on their own and they have to make hard choices and do the impossible. Ray found a way out of no way and he figured out how to save himself and save his brother and he inspired his team, he inspired his whole community and I think that’s a message that our whole society needs right now.”

We also had to ask Hudlin about his recent role producing the Emmy’s during COVID. Despite the challenges presented, Hudlin and his team proved they were up to the task.

“It’s tough because you have to be safety first,” Hudlin told Global Grind about production using COVID protocols. “Fortunately over the past couple months, we’ve developed a set of protocols that you can work in a somewhat limited way and still be safe. I’ve been able to do some specials like the Emmys and do good work and at the same time make sure that everyoen is safe. It requires some creativity and some flexibility but we got that. I’m very encouraged by President Elect Biden putting together a team of actual scientists, and hopefully we can create a new national program so we can beat this pandemic back the way other countries have around the world.”

Chadwick Boseman is among the many accomplished actors who have appeared in Hudlin’s projects, so we had to ask the director, who was also a friend to Boseman, about the legacy he left behind.

“He was an incredible human being and a great actor, but beyond that just a person you wanted to be around,” Hudlin described Boseman to Global Grind. “A person of incredible intelligence, a person with integrity, a person who cared about his community, who cared about art, he attracted the best collaborators around him because of who he was. It was an incredible loss to lose him so young.”

Before ending our interview, we made sure to let Hudlin know how his projects have impacted us, particularly “The Boondocks,” which really profoundly addressed the racial issues in the U.S. that continue to impact us today.

“It’s very important to have a place to do sophisticated black comedy, for parody and sarcasm,” Hudlin told Global Grind. “That’s a very important and healthy way of critiquing where we are as a culture. I think those are good tools for people who are trying to figure out what the heck is going on. Thank goodness we had the election and we had a landslide and we are going to have new management. I have tremendous confidence in the incoming administration.”

We love Reginald Hudlin’s work and can’t wait to see ‘SAFETY!’ Are you excited for December 11th? Disney+ stays winning riiiight?!

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