In the new movie “Blindspotting,” two childhood best friends navigate their changing hometown and their problematic relationship.
Carlos López Estrada’s film has been earning raves for its depiction of an intersectional community looking to define itself against police oppression, bias and gentrification.
The most crucial scene in “Blindspotting” is a painful confrontation between leads Colin (Daveed Diggs), who is black, and Miles (Rafael Casal), who is white, after they flee a house party thrown by a lily-white tech guru who has planted roots in an Oakland legacy neighborhood.
Miles violently beats a black male partygoer who mocks him because he with the same flow and vernacular of many Oakland residents and behaves with the same recklessness and aggression as many of his non-white counterparts.
The partygoer, however, thinks Miles is a poser — a “culture vulture” of the highest order, appropriating another race for his own identity. Miles explodes, and after the beating he and Colin take refuge in an abandoned parking lot.
Colin was celebrating his final day of probation for a felony assault charge. He doesn’t need this trouble, the kind that Miles has been getting him into since they were 12. Colin is facing the impossible battle of reconciling his hope and aspiration with the traps of the culture he grew up in. There’s an undeniable feeling that he thinks Miles is in a different position.
Colin asks a tough question of Miles: “Why do you let me call you n—a?”
The question stings, of course, because Miles had never addressed Colin with the word. “You’re the n—a they’re out here looking for,” Colin says of Miles and his recklessness.
Speaking with TheWrap at the Acura Studios at Sundance in January, screenwriters and co-stars Diggs and Casal and their director, Estrada, spoke about the gravity of the scene — one of the first written in a script they started nine years ago.
“That was the first time we all realized we were doing something that we thought we understood, but hearing those words elevated it,” Estrada said.
“I sat there and called my best friend a n—a for eight hours,” Diggs said.
“All the issues that come up from the discussion of race, and who has ownership of what, and how does history paint somebody all of that is a given,” he said. “The real stakes in that is the way they’ve hurt each other as friends.”
Casal envisioned the scene as a “simple conversation between two people, and [we] reverse-engineered the script from there. How would two people in a buddy comedy ever go to a place where they would say this to each other?”
Watch the full interview above.