As the presidential race continues to heat up, HBO is adding to the discussion by way of a timely film showcasing the positive outcome that can take place when our leaders put their differences aside and focus on the greater good of the country.
All The Way takes an in depth look at how the relationship between former president Lyndon B. Johnson and civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. played a pivotal role in Johnson ultimately passing the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964. We caught up with several of the film’s cast members on the red carpet for the All The Way screening in New York City to get their thoughts on what lessons today’s voters and political leaders can learn from watching the film and more.
Actress Hilary Ward, who plays Coretta Scott-King, says those in positions of political power today can learn much from the politicians portrayed in the film about placing priority on doing what’s right versus what will help them win. “I think the public had very strong feelings on both sides of civil rights and voting rights, but there seemed to be a desire of enough people in government who wanted to be on the right side of history rather than be on the “winning” side of the larger battle,” she said. “That’s what you see in the film and that’s a huge take away.” She also emphasized the importance of appreciating the freedom to vote and those who fought to make it possible. “People quite literally put their bodies on the line for the right to vote so, it’s a great reminder that it’s a privilege to get to exercise that right.”
Actor Bryan Cranston gives an extraordinary performance in his portrayal of President Johnson that’s sure to stir Oscar buzz and he says the politicians of today can certainly learn a few things from the way LBJ and MLK approached their unique predicament. “Here’s two men who live two completely different lives. From education, to family structure, to one being African-American and one being white, and yet both have the same ultimate goal to reach,” he says. “So, how do you make thinks work? You stick with it, that’s the thing. You have to say, ‘we’re not giving up, we’re going to make this work. Let’s find common ground in what we can agree on and let’s build from there.’ It’s too important to just say “this is too hard.” Everything is hard; life is hard.”
For Anthony Mackie, who delivers an equally award-worthy performance as MLK, the lesson to be learned by viewers is one of unity and focus on the things that matter most. “I think we as a people have to realize that we need to take care of us,” he said. “I just feel like, now we’re in a situation where we’re taking care of the wrong people in our community. Kids should not be afraid to walk to school everyday. We as a community should protect those children so they can grow up to be the next Obama or the next Condoleezza Rice or the next monumental figure. It’s our job to protect our next generation.” Speaking candidly on his thoughts about the current presidential hopefuls, Mackie says it’s time for voters to get honest about who is really in the running. “The politicians are elected to work for the people; it’s a public office. So, if you’re a politician by celebrity, you’re doing the wrong job. It’s funny. I feel like with this presidential race, there’s really only one candidate…but we’re arguing about who is the best candidate. So, I think we need to be honest with ourselves, we need to be honest with our country and we, as a community need to be honest with our people.”
And what does he think MLK would be listening to if he were alive today?
“I think he would love Musiq Soulchild and Jaheim cause, that’s who I love [laughs]. He would love Kanye and Big Sean…cause that’s who I love. And then, every Jazz album made, he would own. There’s a lot of Winston Marsalis, Irvin Mayfield, Trombone Shorty cats out there who I think he would love. He’d have a DEEP vinyl collection.”
All The Way premiers May 21 on HBO.
Photo Credit: Karl Pierre / HBO