Jharrel Jerome on How ‘Concrete Cowboy’ Disrupts the Gangster Stereotype: ‘You Don’t Stop to See What Else He Is’ (Video)

TIFF 2020: Jerome stars alongside Idris Elba and Caleb McLaughlin in urban cowboy tale

Last Updated: September 15, 2020 @ 5:52 PM

Idris Elba and producer Lee Daniels were drawn to “Concrete Cowboy” because of writer and director Ricky Staub, but Jharrel Jerome wanted to be a part of the film because of how his character disrupts stereotypes.

“I think the challenge was making sure I had the arc along in the right way and making sure that at the beginning you don’t understand who [my character] is because that’s how it is in the real world,” Jerome told TheWrap’s Steve Pond. “When you look at someone who may be considered a drug dealer or a gangster or someone who is a thug, you don’t stop to see what else he is and you don’t stop to see why he is doing what he is doing or what got him there… The challenge was allowing the truth to shine slowly but surely so that hopefully next time you see someone in the street who has their pants a little low and look like they may move aggressively, maybe they’re not aggressive — maybe they’re just a man with a dream or a woman with a dream, and someone who wants to make it out of the circumstances they are in.”

“Concrete Cowboy,” written by Dan Walser and Ricky Staub, who also directed, stars Idris Elba, Caleb McLaughlin, Jerome, Lorraine Toussaint and Byron Bowers.

It follows a 15-year-old boy (McLaughlin) who is sent to live with his estranged father in Philadelphia, where he learns about the local urban cowboy community. Jerome plays Smush, who used to be a rider but became involved in the drug trade.

Staub said his company Neighborhood Film Co. hires people who recently came out of incarceration, and that’s how he met an urban cowboy through whom he learned all about the riders in Philadelphia.

“I knew nothing about the stables in north Philadelphia at all, I saw horses when I was kid and black men on horses as a kid but I didn’t know the story,” producer Lee Daniels added. “When [Staub] presented a short to me, I was blown away by it… What he wanted to do was not only hire people of color on the screen but people of color behind the screen and people in Philadelphia [maybe] knew nothing about film and cinema so it was important for the community.”

The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 13.

Watch the video above.