Daveed Diggs Uncut: Black Representation in Hollywood, “Blindspotting,” and “Hamilton”
Everybody should be comfortable, with all kinds of blackness so the more we can Telegraph. That into people's living rooms probably, the better. There's. Obviously. A lot going, on in your new movie blind spotting, so I would love for you to tell us just a little bit about it just to kick things off yeah well it's, it's. Following a story of two, men Colin, and Myles I play common my friend Rafael Casal who also, wrote the film with me plays, Myles we've. Grown up together in Oakland they're, working as movers we, meet Colin, on the last three days of his probation for, a violent, crime that was, justified. Believe. You to figure that out, but. While. Driving home one, night he witnesses, the police shooting of an unarmed black man, and, so. The story is about how this friendship, of between, sort. Of a black. Man and a white man who have incredibly. Similar histories. Is. Forced. Into new directions. Because. Of the changing landscape of of Oakland California and because, of their context, starting to shift. In. Terms of how the. Eyes that are on that were and. They're working as movers so there's sort of active participants, in gentrifying, their own City, and there's I mean you just kind of laid. It all out because there's so many different themes that I feel the movie just. Navigates, so wonderfully, many talking about gentrification and police brutality, toxic, masculinity, there's all these things that could have been the, theme of separate. Movies and yet it's all packed into one so, how do you keep it from being muddled, because it's just it we use in and out of all these things so beautifully yeah I think we, just, didn't, write a movie about issues, that think we tried to write a movie about people and, to. Portray them and the city of Oakland is honestly as as possible to make people as complicated, and and. Human. As we, possibly could and you. Know, I think if we all hold a mirror up to ourselves we're, all dealing with all of those things all the time you know so our. Theory. Was that that would work in a movie as well as long as as, long as everything, that our characters, are dealing with are also things that all of us are dealing with outside in the real world we didn't see any reason why we couldn't put it all in one story right absolutely. And you mentioned Raphael who's your co-star, co-writer, co-producer. And also a longtime friend yeah yeah so how. Has your collaboration. Process with him evolved, over the years what was it like for this film and how, is it kind of grown yeah, I mean we had been working together for a bunch of years before we started working on this film so we we became friends, out of collaboration. It was running a studio in North Oakland and we started making music together and. So. Working. On this film was, just kind of a logical, extension for, us of the way we had always worked which is to sort of constantly, push each other to. Work. In a way where nothing's precious so that we. Could get at the the, truth of whatever the thing is and to try to make it as good as possible and, this whole process was like that we you. Know the. There's. A lot of there's a lot, of wraps in the film or things. That are in verse sections, that are in verse even if they're not I. Should incur maps but I call them razza because that's that's our background and. Those were the earliest things in the film were the things in that, area in bar form like we knew how to do that we didn't know how to write a screenplay so it was sort of a decade-long process, of us figuring out how to write, screenplays around, these these, sections, of verse, and. But. Yeah early days were the two of us huddled over the same laptop with our one like pirated, copy of final draft. And. Literally. Like passing, it back and forth you. Know he. Would write a few lines and send it to me and I'd delete two of them and write new ones and, he had, oh yeah. You know and. Then. Stopping. After a few hours and saying things out loud and, good. But. Most of the work really having on drives up and down the five between Oakland our, producers, were in LA we've, been working with the same producers the whole time just in Keith's calendar who, that's. The only way something like this happens, I think and. But. We those you know and they were young in the game too they had done really one movie when we met them but those were the big Hollywood, producers, for us we, were like really trying to impress them, take. These long drives where we talked a lot about the movie and tried it I really have our story straight by the time we walked in there so that we could say here's the draft that we have here all the things were talking about changing it's really smart you know that, I think that's such an interesting environment because, you know you.
And I failed never really done you know worked on a script before yeah, you have a first-time director you have all these new, characters. Making, this one project so what, was that like in terms of kind. Of like a creative playground, because there, were no didn't, seem like there were any boundaries. That you knew of because it was all so new yeah, when, we started I think by the time we started shooting you know we had all sort of grown up together so, by the time we shot this film Jess and Keith had done 13 films, like, that you, know they really grew up and learned how to make movies over the course of time Rafi and I had worked on others shorter, form scripts and and done a lot of webseries together and and so the. Script we ended up crafting, we we, knew a lot more than they we did when we started in Carlos's his first feature but we came up doing music videos together and, working. On a lot of other really, lyrical, stuff and Carlos we knew from jump had a real knack for making. Lyricism, seem natural and, we knew that was a trick we needed in a film that I didn't know any other director who did that so it made sense to work with Carlos but yeah I think a lot of the credit for the playground, feeling, of it goes to our producers, who, even. Though sometimes they knew better also. Knew. That we had a particular, way that we were trying to tell a story and they're so artists focused and they so wanted the vision of the film to reflect our vision, they, sort of let us run with it and until, you, know there's. A scene we really wanted in there where, the. Moving truck is all of a sudden blocked by like 40 capoeiristas. In like a hoarder in the middle of the street and they. Were like can't. Afford all, those February's, days are actually, actors, there's. Nothing. You. Guys this vision but we that's not it's, not gonna happen you know but. They would let us push it all, the way up to the edge all the time and Carlos - getting shots that were, too long that like you, know he had really, no business in getting from it from a traditional, film standpoint, but when we went into the Edit after we were done shooting we had all of this stuff to play with we, had way more footage. There are many scenes that we cut out we only shot for 22 days like, you know to have an extra in a short. Time period like that to have the luxury of we cut certain scenes for in five different ways that's crazy, yes that's, impressive, I mean that's, and that's what I find so interesting because you mentioned that this this has been a movie that's been a decade, in the making and then you had 22 this is like wait wait wait wait wait let's go yeah, in that kind of time crunch I mean what did geez you really had to that's not a lot of time and so is there. Is there anything that you kind of learned about your own creative process kind, of working, in such, a tight time constraint. Yeah, I mean, I don't know, that's how rappers always work I think that's how I've always worked, it's. It's, it's. Always crunched, but like that's when I, when, you have to fall back on your instincts I think is when a lot of the best stuff happens especially. If you're ready for it and. We had lived. With the story for so long we, had sort of massage to the script for so long it. Was probably, for the best that the shooting was so current so we didn't sit. There sweating our acting choices or things like unions doing, pet, is sort of micro, paying, micro attention, to things that, ultimately. Would get thrown out in the edit anyway you know it. Allowed us to get, you. Know there were certain scenes where we didn't know we. Weren't sure what direction we were gonna go in so I'd be like Carlos just like we'll do one that's like low stakes middle stakes and high stakes let's just do her in a sequence and run like three of a minute row so we had them so we could decide later you know we, got to make all kinds of choices like that that we were making in the interest of time but, ultimately that, ended up giving us more choice later and. You mentioned the the not. Calling them rafts but kind of raps verse is a. Cinematic versus well yes somebody said that I, don't know but yes yeah. But I, mean they play such an integral part in the movie, and it's it's interesting because when you watch it it's. It's, woven in to where it feels natural but then there's some instances, like where the climax of the movie which I'm not gonna ruin it I promise I'm not gonna ruin it but it's something that like you're like that would never happen but it works so well so, it's like this touch of surrealism.
In A really, kind, of not. A heavy story but it's like it's there's a lot going on so yeah how I guess like what was it thinking and like why was that so important, for you to have those. Verses other than you know you and Raphael flexing, year yeah. Yeah. When, when, Jess approached Raphael really to do the film it was because, to make a movie is is you know 12 years ago and it's because, she went down a poetry, YouTube, like wormhole of his as a monster, I think the. Exactly. And so she approached, him asking if, some of this kind of language would transfer the film so really. She asked us to write a movie like we we weren't really thinking about it so but that was one of the things we were trying to do and in thinking about it over time what. We realized we wanted to do was to be able to use heightened language in. A way that's a little more practical, and a little more grounded. Than, we normally get to see it in a musical, or or in, a story that is musical, about guys. Who are growing up to be musicians or something this isn't so we, wanted to highlight the way that language, is used in in the bay area it's. Kind of hyper expressive. Really metaphor, dance like even, in conversation. So. Knowing. That we wanted to get to that final scene that's one of the oldest things in the script right and we were reverse engineering from there we, had to sprinkle, in little moments, to. Build. The world out to justify, somebody speaking like that right, and so it happens in ways that are overt and subtle there's, like a sort. Of classic, like back and forth freestyle, happening, and early on in the film but. They're also movies. Or the freestyle like cleaning out the house yeah. But then there are also these moments of. Like. That there's a scene, in a beauty parlor that's actually all inverse it's like subverted, we don't have a. There's, no drumbeat under it and like the cadences are a little subversive. But and, there's like a crazy. Like salesmanship, scene or where miles is selling a boat but, like you. Know that that, is also all in slang but it's also there's also our subtle hints at cadence there so we do a lot of work and we were pretty conscious, about it to sort of train your ear I just. Think when I do rap shows I try to start every show with a really, fast. Like. Language, dense acapella right, because it trains an audience's ear to listen to the kind of rapping that they're going to be hearing for the rest of the show and it makes you able, to catch there's my theory but it makes you able to catch more later on when all the musical elements are in there and I'm still rapping really fast there's a similar thing we were doing with this film which is just trying to train people's ears to, be ready to take in a whole bunch of language at once right right and you mentioned the, boat scene and I loved you know he, when he mentions miles he mentions that you know you got to make it pretty he's like you know you got to give the delivery you got to make it pretty gotta make people want it and I.
Think That's it's kind of like this almost meta, idea. For the film itself because it's. This pretty thing like where you're delivering a lot of really important messages and, so how did you find, that balance between art. And. Making. Sure your message isn't lost by over, sugarcoating, things in the way yeah, I mean I think for. Us it was. Genuinely. To focus on the on the truth of the situation and to not think, about the messages, at all you know like in in the creation of it I think you, know that they're there and you hope that they're there but again like by. Just trying to be honest about the world we're living in I think and, to make, a film that's really. Dealing with people's. Capacity, for empathy like, that those, things will come across I think you know we've, we've sort of allowed everybody else to a fix the headlines the necessary, headlines for this film but for us it was about people, really trying to understand each other in, the exact, world that we live in now specifically. The Oakland California that is this right now you know. And and, but, I I think this sort of. Gratifying. Thing about that is people are able to extract all of these lessons from. Really. Just watching people do what we're all trying to do every day which is just like, understand. Each other better but. We, don't get to watch it when we're participating in, it so that's. The great thing about movies, you should bag you watch other people do all the work for you and you're like oh damn we'll be working. You. Know I mean speaking of, you, know verses and wrapping, it I mean you're obviously. Which clipping, I mean, that was an amazing rap group oh you. Have a form again oh yeah we're, actually doing a show on Saturday but. Yeah. Which is the first time we performed in a long time I have to relearn, a bunch of songs but but. Yeah we're working on a new album it's been a long time kind of there's a bunch of stuff coming out this year no if I can announce any of it yet but it's like not even where I was going. But. I appreciate, that I love that group I didn't say yeah but we're still working really hard these next projects, really ambitious, so it's taken us a long time I mean I was gonna say like with you know you. Can't if, we can't talk about your career without talking about Hamilton obviously. And, I'm, just curious to know because that's how obviously. You were working in theater before and you you know you're working in you know and music and just. Really working all these various fields and so but. Hamilton is how a lot of us came to know you, and your work so what. From that experience is kind of what. Did you learn from that experience that you've applied to other. Points, in your career like, what like wears it through line that you can save say for example from Hamilton, to blind. Spotting yeah I think well I think, Hamilton. Being. Involved in that process sort of reinforced. A lot of things that I that I believed, but had never necessarily, seen work out on such a grand scale right. This. Idea, of. Collaborating. Outward, instead of upward right of, working. With your fret you know ever how, does that work everything, at work you, know instead of trying to reach, for a, more. Famous director, to work with who has name or whatever instead of trying to, level. Up in, some way, that. That. Probably has nothing to do with you or what you want to do working with the people who are your peers who. You. Know you really, want to work with anywhere you know we're committed to the art Hamilton was a bunch of friends working. On a thing yeah and, so, that's that's, a, thing. That I had sort of always believed and the thing I had always practiced, but I'd certainly never seen it pay off on any scale like that never seen anybody make that. Kind of, sort. Of cultural, splash or financial, splash doing. That thing nobody in my life would watch do it but getting. To watch Lynne sort of work like that and Tommy work like that a. That. And then this idea of just really committing, to what is best for the piece, there. Were a lot of choices. During. The Hamilton process that, folks didn't really understand, refusing. To go perform, on the Grammys right they, want us to come out and perform there and the creative, team refused, and said no the show is better when you're here so if you want to come here and watch us we wouldn't do any other parades right and we never did all the, thing Broadway shows go and do Thanksgiving Day phrase we never did it because if you remove the thing from its context, it loses some of its effect so, all the creators were very, very much intentional, about maintaining, the context, of the show was.
The Best and always showing it off in the best like all, of the press we did for it was pretty highly, you, know hand-picked, it. Was this, very sort of cautious, thing about about, just always making sure that we showed off the thing correctly and intentionally, not, letting other people create the narrative for our show, and. So that's definitely a. Lesson, I took away sort of watching Tommy kill do all these things and Jeffrey seller and our producers be like very. Focused, on the, the narrative, that gets out there and controlling, the things that you can control. And. Really trying to protect a thing that you love but, you know speaking of narratives, obviously, Oakland there's, been much conversation about Oakland having this moment in Hollywood you have you know boots reilly sorry bother you your, film parts of black panther were filmed in oakland as well so you, know when you think about, the. Work that you're doing kind, of spotlighting. Your hometown. And then kind of zoom out a little bit and think about you know this is this larger question, of diversity in Hollywood like, what. Responsibilities, do you feel as a black, creative. Yeah. I mean I, that's. Interesting, as a black creative, I think I do feel. Sort, of responsible. For. At least attempting, to continue, to broaden. Our. Mainstream. Understanding. Of blackness this is the thing that I actually. Only, really started thinking about when I started working on blackish, but talking to Kenya about adding, the character that I play on there Johan, in, was. Such an intentional, thing for him he was like there's a generation, gap on our show there's. There's, the kids and then there's Dre there's, this middle. Like late, millennial, generation that. Is not represented, that's so fascinating, and. We. Are a mainstream. Black TV, show I would like to represent as many aspects, of blackness as possible. That's. Such a beautiful thing to do to, me you know and obviously, like it gave, me a job that was really fun I learned so much working on that show but it's really that mindset. That. Is, equal. Parts conscious and creative that is something, I'm sort of striving. To participate. In as much as I can so just. You. Know I. Love. So. The reason one of the reasons Atlanta, is so great right one, of the reasons I'm here for everything like Heath does right like just the the way he carries himself publicly, ryan coogler is one of those guys too like Ryan doesn't code-switch, for anybody Ryan's the same in every integrated you, know and. I I admire. That because. We, need to sort, of champion, difference. Particularly. As we, display blackness, everybody, should be comfortable, with all kinds of blackness so the more we can Telegraph.
That Into people's living rooms probably, the better. So. There's that and, I think other. Than that also I'm interested in sort of championing, other people's, stories, if people are gonna I I can only do so much I can, only work on so many things but if people are holding a door open for me I'm usually pretty intentional, here, three, women filmmakers who you names, you haven't heard it and here you know other just other people who I know who are dope who. For whatever reason haven't, gotten a shot yet and so it's like well you may, read, their stuff if you're listening to me like you, know you're gonna like them absolutely, Enya keeping, all that in mind and, just. Thinking, of all, the, different facets. Of your career you have music you have theory of TV you have film you have all these things how. Do. You see that, how. Do you see that kind of crystallized, like where do you want your career to go not the same you have to pick one and you know because there's multi - its who successful. Across the board you, know man where do you see your career, heading, like where you're trying to steer it I don't, know, fully, but, I think. It's. It. Is feeling, like I'm I'm interested in. In. This, idea of championing, new voices. Which. Is also in some ways selfish, because I really like I would like to get back, to just sitting around making rap songs sometimes. I. Can keep my name ringing a little bit by being like IV Diggs presents, somebody. Else Wade over. Exactly, like and then I can just sit in my room and make some raps. But. I I I, am interested, in you know I I come from a community, of artists who I think are really. Wonderful artists and who I. Am. Interested, in shining spotlight songs I think they have valuable things to say so I'm interested in starting with that community and then letting them reach. Out to their communities, and you. See it working already you know you see with, with other communities, and at some point our communities, will link up you know I met, I. Met. All the folks in Hamilton through a group called freestyle of supreme which the same group that I met at Carson who is in our film. You. Know so like that, these. Things happen communities, reach out to each other and work with each other and I'm interested, in continuing that that sort of outward. Collaboration.