I early 2017, ATLANTA-native Actor ALGEE SMITH gained great notoriety for portraying singing group NEW EDITION Lead Singer RALPH TRESVANT in the BET biopic mini-series, The NEW EDITION STORY, and; now stars as CLEVELAND LARRY REED for the forthcoming biopic big screen film DETROIT!!!
In anticipation of the opening of film DETROIT, he covers the new issue of ROLLING OUT Magazine.
Here are some interview interludes:
On the emotional impact that shooting the motel scene had on him and the other actors in the scene:
“When we first got walked on set for the motel scene, we didn’t know what was really going on,” Smith said. “So we walked into the motel not knowing that we would be there for the next two weeks. And this is where we’re going to be shooting the whole movie. But I’m glad she started there because that was the roughest time to shoot and we just got it out of the way. It was so hard. I was lightheaded on set every day. Breathing so hard, yelling, and screaming. I would leave the set hoarse. But we were really trying to give a glimpse of what these people actually felt when we’re not really even scratching the surface.”
“Will Poulter [who plays White police officer Krauss] just broke down crying and asked director Kathryn [Bigelow], ‘How many more times do we have to shoot this,’ So when he broke down, the whole set just stopped. I went outside to help him out a little bit and I just broke down crying with him. And we all felt the weight of this project. You have people behind the scenes and behind the cameras that are trying not to shed tears. Makeup people trying not to shed tears. So it was a very tough thing for all of us. And that was probably the biggest break down on set.”
On meeting the real-life CLEVELAND LARRY REED:
“I didn’t meet [Larry Reed] until the last week of shooting the movie,” Smith said. “When I first met him, he just opened up his house door. He looked at me and he just burst out laughing. He just looked at me and said, ‘Yeah, you’re going to play me real good!’ And we had a three-hour conversation and he showed me everything about The Dramatics. He showed me where all the cracks were in his skull, where the gashes were still all over his body [from being beaten by police]. He talked to me about how it felt that night. How it felt to lose his best friend. He was 18 when that happened. So to have experienced that and he was so innocent. I feel like that was one thing that Kathryn really did well. She painted that picture of Larry’s innocence. He’s a solid man and he’s still standing strong today. But I don’t think he fully got over that. I don’t think I would be able to fully get over that. He was telling me where he found his peace, though. And it shows in the movie where he finds his peace and his soul and the higher power. Because when he walks into that church, he feels like that’s the only place he can go. So that’s where he found his peace.”
On portraying RALPH TRESVANT for The NEW EDITION STORY:
“My dad used to tour playing guitar with New Edition. So I knew all of the songs. But all of that went out of the window because I had to play this guy who was still performing and touring. So it was a lot of pressure to get it right. But when we started filming it, we knew how potent it would be because of New Edition’s legacy. So even if we didn’t do the movie, New Edition’s name alone stands tall. So we knew how important it would be. When we saw it cross over into generations and you got 3-year-old kids singing the songs and trying to do the dances, that blows my mind. Because then you got the older people that actually grew up with New Edition that’s doing the same thing. And then you got people that’s my age, so it’s like we hit three different generations of people and that doesn’t get done a lot. So I’m extremely blessed for that. But that was crazy seeing all those kids really feel that, that’s how you know it’s real music.”
On the impact that he would like for this film to have on people:
“I want people to feel a lot. One thing that we talked about as a cast is we just want people to be educated. We want old, young, and people of all races to see this. And we also want to spark empathy. We want to open up a dialogue and figure out where we can even start, seeing that nothing has changed in the justice system. How can we start a change now? We just want to open up the conversation. And if it takes putting Black policemen in Black neighborhoods, then that’s what we have to do. We have to figure out a way to make it work because it’s not working right now. I just want people to be open-minded and willing to just talk.”