On Monday evening, The Weinstein Company, Ciroc Vodka and BET Films hosted a special screening of Writer/Director Ryan Coogler’s critically acclaimed feature film debut “Fruitvale Station.” The Source Magazine was on the red carpet at the MoMA. Check out our interviews below!
“Fruitvale Station” film follows the true story of Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan), a 22-year-old Bay Area resident who wakes up on the morning of December 31, 2008 and feels something in the air. Not sure what it is, he takes it as a sign to get a head start on his resolutions: being a better son to his mother (Octavia Spencer), whose birthday falls on New Year’s Eve, being a better partner to his girlfriend Sophina (Melonie Diaz), who he hasn’t been completely honest with as of late, and being a better father to Tatiana (Ariana Neal), their beautiful four year-old daughter. Crossing paths with friends, family, and strangers, Oscar starts out well, but as the day goes on, he realizes that change is not going to come easily. His resolve takes a tragic turn, however, when BART officers shoot him in cold blood at the Fruitvale subway stop on New Year’s Day. Oscar’s life and tragic death would shake the Bay Area – and the entire nation – to its very core.
From the film: Writer/Director Ryan Coogler, Melonie Diaz, Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer, and Producer Nina Yang Bongiovi were in attendance. Additional guests that we spotted included DJ Mos (who DJ’d at the after-party), DJ Kiss, Fabolous, Vinny Cha$e, Cuba Gooding Jr., Stephen Hill, CEO of BET Debra Lee, Patina Miller, and Harvey Weinstein.
What was the greatest challenge of playing Oscar?
Michael B. Jordan: Not having anybody to go off of, to actually pull from. But it’s actually like a blessing in disguise because I couldn’t be imitating anybody; I was kind of representing who Oscar was. And then the pressure of not letting down the family. I know that his daughter is going to one day watch this film and it’s very important to me and Ryan to do that family justice and tell the story the right way.
Why was this such an important project for you to be part of?
What was it like collaborating with first time feature film director Ryan Coogler?
Octavia Spencer: Well the markings of a great first time writer-director begins with a script, so I didn’t need anything but instructions from him. He was amazing.
Tell me about working with Michael B. Jordan?
Octavia Spencer: Working with Michael is breathtaking. I mean, he’s a young, handsome, leading man who has the work ethics and talent of a great character actor. Hats off to Michael.
What was your preparation like?
Octavia Spencer: We are playing real people and it was important that the family agreed to what we were doing because Ryan wanted to present the good and the bad and they liked what we did and that is the best that any actor can hope for is to get the approval from the real life person that you’re playing.
Tell me about your character.
Melonie Diaz: I play Sophina; she’s the mother of Oscar’s child and his best friend. Sophina knew him the best I believe out of everyone. You kind of meet them at the beginning of their relationship where it’s really tumultuous and we kind of follow their love story and you realize that she loves him very much and when he passes, it’s the most heartbreaking thing that has ever happened.
What was it like meeting the real Sophina?
Melonie Diaz: It’s intense and it’s painful. She obviously went through one of the most hard, gut wrenching things that I could never imagine going through. But what’s good is that she’s extremely strong and fierce and smart and a really good mother and I’m really impressed with her. She’s been able to live a life after the tragedy.
How was it like working with Michael B. Jordan?
Melonie Diaz: Awesome. I mean, not only is he easy on the eyes, but he’s a very giving actor and he’s fun to work with. It’s fun to work with people who are on the same page. Octavia and everyone all wanted to tell the same story, so we’re all very lucky.
What about working with Ryan Coogler?
I mean he doesn’t really feel like a first time feature director, that’s what’s crazy. You have 20 days to make a movie and it’s the fast and the furious, but he just had a very clear vision of the story that he wanted to tell so when we all joined the film, it was like working with an old pro or something.
How did you and Forest Whitaker come to produce this film?
Nina Yang Bongiovi: Ryan Coogler came because of an old professor of mine at USC. He heard that I’m working with Forest Whitaker and said, “You got to see this brilliant student of mine.” And then, once I met Ryan, heard his stories, saw his short films, thought he is pure talent. So Forest and I decided to take it on and especially, it’s such an important story to tell, so that combined with Ryan Coogler made magic.
What did you like about the script?
Nina Yang Bongiovi: What I liked about the script was that it was so authentic, it kept its integrity, it didn’t make Oscar Grant a martyr, it didn’t make him an angel or saint, it made him a regular human being going about his day. He made his mistakes – he’s 22 years old so that’s what we loved about how authentic it was in the way Ryan Coogler wrote it, it was so true to the culture in the Bay Area.
What makes Michael B. Jordan perfect for the role?
Nina Yang Bongiovi: He’s so perfect because he’s a young actor that’s about to break as becoming a recognizable household name. He’s known from “The Wire” and “Friday Night Lights,” but not yet to everybody in the US and so he was on that verge and he’s ultra talented, so this is his first lead role. He’s just perfect.
After the screening, guests headed over to an intimate reception at the Top of the Standard.
“Fruitvale Station” hits theaters July 12.