Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal began working on their first screenplay around the time of the 2009 shooting death of Oscar Grant by a white police officer in Oakland, Calif. — nearly a decade later, their film “Blindspotting” feels just as relevant as ever.
“[The Oscar Grant shooting] was a highly televised case in Oakland because there hadn’t been a lot of them,” Casal told TheWrap. “Now is what happens when a country doesn’t deal with the issues that it has. The conversation sort of gets to the point of exhaustion.”
Diggs, a star of Broadway’s “Hamilton,” said the film comes with a definite message in the Black Lives Matter era. “There’s an advocacy for empathy in the film,” he said. “So if there’s anything that the film is arguing for, it’s this idea that you probably have blindspots no matter who you are. And it’s worth investigating them.”
In addition to co-writing the script, Diggs stars as an Oakland man named Collin trying to make his last three days on probation when he witnesses a copy shoot a black suspect in the back during a chase.
“There’s a feeling that I think every person of color feels in this country, I think that every poor person in this country feels to some extent, I think any marginalized group — women — where somehow your body is worth less than anybody else’s,” Diggs told TheWrap.
“There’s a real fear associated with that and I think Collin, being on probation, leads him to be grappling with things in this particular way that feel stifling, they feel heavy,” he added.
Casal, who costars as Collin’s best friend, Miles, said the film’s focus shifted from outrage over the shooting of an unarmed black man to the silence that comes after numerous such events.
“Blindspotting” asks a lot of questions of the audience, and one of the only answers it gives is what blindspotting actually is: when someone can only see one of two, or many interpretations of an image or situation.
Diggs and Casal said they weren’t interested in telling the audience what to take away from the film. “I don’t think we were trying to prescribe an outcome that led you to believe one thing or another,” Diggs said. “It’s going to depend on where your point of entry is and in the discussions you have with your friends and neighbors afterward.
“Blindspotting,” released by Lionsgate and in theaters this weekend, has been praised critics. The film currently has a 91 percent on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.
As heavy as the themes in “Blindspotting” — there’s an entire, tension-filled scene devoted to exploring the use of the N-word — the film is markedly funny.
“The beauty of showing the duality of comedy and drama — that’s the currency of people in any sort of struggle and people in an oppressed group in this country — is to find the coping mechanism so that you can drive off into the sunset at the end of a story,” Casal said. “You have to let people exhale.”