Ava DuVernay and Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor Discuss ‘Origin’: ‘The Film Is About A Black Woman Moving In Her Purpose’ (Exclusive)


We’re days away from the release of Origin, Ava DuVernay’s brilliant film based on the Isabel Wilkerson book Caste: The Origins Of Our Discontents and we were lucky to have the chance to speak with DuVernay and the film’s star Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor.

Jon Bernthal and Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor 'Origin' BTS and production stills

Source: Atsushi Nishijima / Courtesy NEON

The film takes shape around Wilkerson’s journey writing her bestselling book, while suffering from immense grief. DuVernay and Ellis-Taylor spoke with Global Grind about how the story spoke to their own choices to move in alignment with their divine assignment.

“I’ve been lucky in these last few years that I’ve been working to work with to work with some visionaries,” Ellis-Taylor told Global Grind. “Ava is one of those and when I worked with her on When They See Us I felt that I was a part of something that had consequence and we see that with Yusef Salaam, who is going to be a City Council Councilman now and I believe those seeds were planted with When They See Usand so I have always wanted to continue that work with her that I felt was a an act of an act of social justice.

Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor 'Origin' BTS and production stills

Source: Atsushi Nishijima / Courtesy NEON

“So this came along and it was Isabel Wilkerson’s book Caste that I knew only by reputation and and interviews,” Ellis-Taylor continued. “But I knew that Ms. Wilkerson was speaking to something in a radical way. Something that would explode our laziness in terms of how we talk about race in this country. And I felt that that also was a continuation of what I feel is my is my purpose, is walking in my ordained path, hopefully. I just wanted to be a part of something that I feel in my heart is why why God made me.”

Ava DuVernay 'Origin' BTS and production stills

Source: Atsushi Nishijima / Courtesy NEON

DuVernay said making the film had a similar effect for her as well.

“The film is about a Black woman walking in her purpose,”Ava DuVernay told Global Grind. “What we’re watching when we watch this movie, is Isabel Wilkerson as a character moving through a story that is about anchoring herself to these big intellectual ideas as she tries to survive the loss of her loved ones, and that her work gave her purpose. For me personally, my work gives me purpose. I know what I am on this planet to do. It’s love my fellow man, it’s to hold hands with the people who are around me in my personal life and it’s to amplify ideas about justice and dignity through my filmmaking and that’s what I know about my mission right now.”

“Maybe other things will be revealed, but that’s what I try to do each day,” DuVernay continued. “How wonderful to be able to to make a movie where the central character is also doing that same thing? And to do it with a woman who’s doing it in her daily life in Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor! So it was just an extraordinary process. And when you talk about being called to do a project this was very much a project that was knocking on my door, knocking on my heart and it was a thrill to do.”

Watching the film, it so clearly reflected all of those involved were moving in their purpose and it was truly beautiful to behold.

Origin arrives in theaters Friday, January 19.