Exclusive: Jeremy Pope on the Power and Relatability of ‘The Inspection’

Published: Tuesday 10th Jan 2023 by That Grape Juice

Jeremy Pope takes center stage in A24’s powerful drama ‘The Inspection.’

Inspired by the real-life experiences of Elegance Bratton, the film follows the character Ellis (played by Pope) as he navigates homophobia while away at Marine boot camp – and back home with his mother (Gabrielle Union).

Pope’s piercing, potent performance earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor and is generating plenty of Oscar buzz too.

That Grape Juice‘s Chet Kincaid caught up with the Flordia native, who opened up about his personal connection to the narrative and its broader importance – especially in today’s climate.

Our exclusive interview awaits below…

That Grape Juice (Chet): ‘The Inspection’ was shot in 19 days! What were the preparation and the schedule for shooting this movie?

Jeremy Pope: I knew that emotionally this was going to be a very demanding film physically about this character that joins the Marines kicked out of his house for being gay.

It’s based on the life of our writer-director Elegance Bratton; his story and his experience.

So, I knew 19 days was very ambitious for us to put all the things in the pot. That meant that we just had to show up for each other. This film for me, after reading the script, I fell in love with the words on the page, but ultimately meeting Elegance and feeling his spirit and his energy, I wanted to protect him. I wanted to show up for him. I think tribe and community is so important for everyone, but specifically for black and brown people and even more specifically the LGBTQIA community. So, I knew that by him telling his story and his way of being so vulnerable. There are just certain things that once you give it away, you can’t get back.

So, I wanted to walk hand in hand with him, and sometimes put myself in front, I wanted the audience to meet me before they see him. I thought if I am doing this role and this character and this story with as much love and heart as I could, that we would soar and that this film would be something tangible for people who need to be reminded in their existence and reminded of their love and their worth. Because that’s what I felt reading the script, and hopefully it resonates with our audience in that way.

That Grape Juice: Elegance Bratton. I love that name. Elegance. I love that.

Jeremy Pope: Elegance. What a name. Like you just can’t forget that name. Set up for greatness I feel.

That Grape Juice: Absolutely. So, this is his movie, his story. What were some of the gems that you two shared and how did this influence your portrayal of Ellis on screen?

Jeremy Pope: I know, I think the thing that was most beautiful about the collaborative experience. Early on, I had to ask him to trust me. Not that he didn’t, but I had to go: in order for this to work and for us to not be fighting each other on set, we needed to find this love language of how a writer, director, source of all sources can guide me to finding my evolved version of French because I can’t beat him. I’m not him. But I can only kind of bring those truths to the surface. But I think the thing that was most brilliant and beautiful about the collaboration was, I hadn’t worked with a black director in this way. So, there were certain conversations and feelings that I didn’t have to explain.

I feel like a lot of my work, I’ve had a white director trying to protect this kind of black story or the complexities of it, but there are just certain things that you don’t want to have to explain and discuss. Because it’s just a feeling. Or it’s like, I don’t want to have to, to make it valuable to you or tell you my why. So, there were a lot of moments that were really beautiful for us filming where I could just look across the room. And it would be like, you know and I do know, or when he asked me to go to a place. I knew what place he was referring to. The place of being abandoned, of feeling shame. There’s so much shame. I have felt so many years of trying to find my purpose and alignment with being a strong black man that identifies as queer or gay do those things coincide? Or does, the way that I identify affect the ability for people to see me in my strength, and in my masculinity? The complexities of that, but to have a film that is affirmative of that was so necessary for me in the journey of where I was at as an artist and as a creative, but I know how necessary it’s going to be for people that are going to see themselves on screen.

So, I always speak for the black and the queer. But I think this film is also universal. I think it speaks to everyone who meets that moment in their life of who am I? And how can I be of service in this world with this time that I have on this earth? And what does that mean? How do we step into our purpose? A purpose that should ultimately feel like freedom, should feel like a space where you are evolving and learning and loving the new things about yourself and stepping further into that. So that’s what the film was and is and I hope to be for people that watch it.

That Grape Juice: Your excitement for the project is palpable.

Jeremy Pope: I’m ready to talk about this film because of how much I love it and how much we all put into making this an indie film, you don’t make indie movies for the money. It’s about the heart. It’s about the story.

That Grape Juice: Ellis French became a marine mainly to heal his relationship with his mother, Inez French, stating, “I’m never giving up on us.” Now, where do you stand on seeking the acceptance and love of a family member after rejection?

Jeremy Pope: It’s hard and it’s complicated. I think you have to be gentle with yourself. I speak from my own experience. I spent many years trying to shapeshift and be this kind of, this version of myself that people in my life, and family members wanted me and needed me to be. But when I got older and realized that that didn’t align with who I am, that meant that I would have those hard conversations with those people. But then ultimately, the decision was: I might have to step away from these relationships because they don’t serve me and my existence. That’s why I speak about community and tribe because a lot of the time specifically for our LGBTQIA youth. And when we’re on that journey of unlearning the thing that had been projected onto us that are lies and aren’t true, you ain’t gonna be shit, you ain’t worthy, you ain’t bit, all of these things. “You’re going to hell,” all of these things that are projected on you for simply showing up in your honesty, you have to unlearn. I found for me that unlearning has been with people that are my tribe. Making sure that they see me for all that I end up being, love me, and allow me to evolve and grow. So, while our ending doesn’t end in a bow and you did the thing I asked you to do,  I will love you and accept you.

It brings this idea of how complicated and how conditional sometimes the love can be from the people that are supposed to love us unconditionally. That’s very hard but I think that’s honest and it’s real, and it’s true. And in that, French doesn’t let it break in. It doesn’t mean that all of this was in vain. You look at Elegance, none of it was in vain. He made this film in an attempt to reach out to his mother. They hadn’t spoken, his mother passed away a few days after the movie was greenlit.

So, while he never got to have that moment, he’s able to use his pain and his trauma and things that have happened to him to uplift a community of people that have been of service. We talk about people that have been in the Marines and been in the military and had to hide behind the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell mantra. But he’s used this space to affirm people in their truth and in their existence, and in their beauty. I think seeing is believing. So, when you create things like this where people can see it to believe it, it becomes a necessary resource and something tangible for them and a moment of weakness and a moment of, I don’t know if I’m going to be okay.  A film like this can remind someone that there is a way out, even in a toxic, complicated situation. I think Elegance is proof of that.

He’s been able to make a beautiful film that speaks to so many people. He’s got to work with Gabrielle Union, who is as we know, doing the work in the streets with her family and protecting her trans daughter. It’s those people putting themselves on the front line so that we can see it and we can start to believe it, you know.

Your thoughts?

Please Post Your Comments & Reviews

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recommended Posts