Samuel’s latest film is a genre bending take on the Hollywood Biblical epic. The Book Of Clarence stars LaKeith Stanfield as Clarence, a man who is deeply in debt and in love with the sister of the man he owes money. Inspired by the prosperity of the Messiah, Clarence sets out to make a name (and fortune) for himself, but like any good epic, his journey brings him a richness in spirit he never anticipated.
GlobalGrind Sr. Content Director Janeé Bolden chatted with Samuel and leading man Lakeith Stanfield ahead of their debut about the film’s Black Messiah and the importance of breaking the mold of how Hollywood has long portrayed Biblical times.
“I believe in the walk of Jesus Christ, and that is not necessarily color specific and because it’s not color specific, it doesn’t have to be a white guy all time, especially reading his description,” Samuel told GlobalGrind. “I wanted to give children and young kids a Biblical movie that resembles an environment that we’re all familiar with no matter what color you are was the characters that we’re all familiar with as opposed to the environments I’ve always been given, that you know I’m just not I mean I’m familiar with the stories but telling of those stories kind of this alien, to how I grew up. so for me it was important for me to have characters that resemble myself in it.”
“I thought it was beautiful,” Stanfield added. “I grew up in a house where my aunt had a picture of a man with blonde locks, blue eyes and then on the other side there was a man who was darker who had a small Afro and was in the same pose and, because of the programming that I was receiving when I was young, I looked at that white one and I said, ‘Well there’s Jesus’ and then I looked at the black one and I said, ‘Who the hell is that?’ She said ‘It’s Jesus.’ And I was very confused and then she showed me in the Bible where there was a description of Jesus and I was like, ‘Ohh OK.’ So it was really interesting and beautiful to see a rendition of Jesus that wasn’t the one that I had grown up seeing all that time, knowing that there could be different interpretations about how Jesus looked. That we were exploring that that was a really awesome thing, and not only that, the people that were around in the time could have looked a myriad of ways. There were a lot of different people on the world in the globe at that time and now we’re showing that there’s a multiplicity of people and I really love that and I thought it would be beneficial for generations to come.”
One of our favorite scenes in The Book Of Clarence features most of the cast on a night out, enjoying music and dancing to Nights Over Egypt (with choreography by Fatima Robinson), so we had to ask about Samuel’s reimagining Biblical times in a way that’s not entirely unlike our own experiences.
“Just imagine being in the club in Jerusalem and in 33 AD, it’s just like a really amazing beautiful thing to imagine and there we were on set,” Stanfield told GlobalGrind about the memorable scene. “It was real. Jeymes was playing music for real and it just felt like this really beautiful coming together. Only in a Jeymes Samuel film can you have a chariot sequence, an actual fighting sequence, a sequence with a man hanging up on 2 planks, a sequence of a man walking on water and the sequence that’s just all out dance. It’s so beautiful and it all fits.”
“When I wrote that scene in the script and they go to the club because, why not?” Samuel challenged. “They did have clubs those days? They didn’t dance those days? So you’re giving people everything that they experienced. When I think about The Book of Clarence, it’s about all the in between stuff. Where did Mary Magdalene get her hair done? Where did Jesus buy his sandals?”
“And it’s real,” Stanfield added. “It’s nice to juxtapose real things with a time where we tend to think of things as sort of so monotone. This was this and this was this and it’s like — NO it’s been rich! It’s always been rich and if nothing has been rich, it’s been us. You feel me?”
Excellent points were made. The Book Of Clarence arrives in theaters Friday, January 12, 2024.
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