Beyond The Lights is the story of Noni, the music world’s latest superstar. But not all is what it seems and the pressures of fame have Noni (Gugu Mbatha, Raw) on the edge – until she meets Kaz Nicol (Nate Parker), a young cop and aspiring politician who’s been assigned to her detail. Drawn to each other, Noni and Kaz fall fast and hard, despite the protests of those around them who urge them to put their career ambitions ahead of their romance. But it is ultimately Kaz’s love that gives Noni the courage to find her own voice and break free to become the artist she was meant to be.
Hip Hop Weekly had an opportunity to catch up with Nate Parker, an actor who has had noteworthy roles in Red Tails, The Secret Life of Bees, The Great Debaters and Pride, among other projects, to fill us in on Beyond The Lights.
HHW: There is such buzz about this film and the previous are awesome. What drew you to the role?
Nate Parker: Initially, it was the writer/director Gina Prince-Bythewood. She is so well-versed and I like her work. I had the opportunity to work with her in The Secret Life of Bees, so I knew what I was getting into. When she called, it was an easy ‘yes’ to come aboard, and the script was the icing on the cake.
HHW: The film will resonate with so many people. Who do you think will be most interested in seeing the film?
Nate Parker: I think there’s something for everyone – anyone who can identify with love or struggled with an identity crisis or anyone who is in danger of losing himself. To love someone, you have to love yourself. And young men can see that respecting women can be cool, that having integrity can be cool. Also, there are good cops that have a moral compass and that are positive.
HHW: I’m glad you touched on relationships. A lot of men do not value relationships because of the way they were raised and they can’t see beyond the physical sense. Do you agree?
Nate Parker: I hope this can open some eyes. The condition of our young people is the reflection of our leadership. As parents, educators and filmmakers, we have a responsibility. I used to have a professor for computer programming and he said a computer won’t do anything you didn’t program it to do. So when you talk about young men not having the instinct to love and respect, that’s because we have allowed that to happen and if we don’t have positive images, we are part of the problem. From the gaffer to the director, we’re using our platform in this film to balance those negative perpetuations of life. I hope this film can serve for people to start having conversations. The character [I play] was not there to exploit Noni; he was there to protect her and keep her healthy and to provide a safe place.
HHW: You’ve had a variety of roles, especially your memorable role in Red Tails – you’ll always be known as Captain Martin “Easy” Julian. How do you feel about that?
Nate Parker: If that’s the truth, then I embrace it. That is a testament to doing your very best. – When I’m gone, I’m hoping that my legacy reflects someone who understood the responsibility of positivity for Black men. And if the visuals have remnants of that, then I will be happy.
– by Cynthia Horner