Jeffrey Wright plays an incarcerated man on HBO’s “O.G.” And the actor was, for all intents and purposes, somewhat of an incarcerated man himself for the duration of filming, which was done entirely on location at an active, maximum-security prison in Indiana.
Premiering on HBO this Saturday after debuting at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival, “O.G.” was shot over a five-week period in the summer of 2016 at Pendleton Correctional Facility. Several of the staff and men incarcerated at the prison are featured as first-time actors in the film, which was written by Stephen Belber and directed by Madeleine Sackler.
But Wright, who is obviously not actually imprisoned himself, tells TheWrap that he became so comfortable shooting inside a prison cell that it was a “little unsettling.”
“It was funny, during breaks I actually went into Louis’ [Wright’s character’s] cell, because there were no trailers, obviously,” the actor told us in a recent interview. “But it was a little unsettling how comfortable I was in there over time. I actually watched the Democratic National Convention in there.”
The film shot from June 27 – July 29, 2016, so Wright had plenty of time to settle into that cell by the time the convention occurred between July 25 and July 28.
“O.G.” follows Louis, who was once the head of a prominent prison gang, in the final weeks of his 24-year sentence. His impending release is upended with the arrival of Beecher (Theothus Carter), who is being courted by gang leadership, and Louis takes him under his wing. Coming to grips with the indelibility of his crime and the challenge of reentering society, Louis finds his freedom hanging in the balance as he struggles to save Beecher.
Carter was among the real-life inmates who starred in the film alongside Wright, who credits the newcomer’s “excellent” performance with helping to “inform” his own.
Wright — who also stars on HBO’s sci-fi series “Westworld” — says that filming in the prison alongside these men was “absolutely necessary” to help him get into character and educate himself about the prison system.
“O.G.” premieres Saturday, Feb. 23 at 10/9c on HBO.