Tell us a bit about your collaboration with Jennifer Lawrence
He is an incredibly sensitive and human person. I think it shows through his performances. Her character goes through a multitude of emotions and she hides nothing. It is very far from the other films that she was able to make in the past, in which she embodied fierce protagonists. Lynsey is more of a quiet person. She is recovering from trauma and trying to figure out who she was before. Gradually, his character grows. We get a better glimpse of his past, while discovering a new identity. Jennifer Lawrence knows how to embody all of this with ease. I was very intimidated at first because I admire his work. But as our relationship developed between takes, as we were discussed about us and our characters, I think that also nurtured our on-screen friendship.
Your father was himself a soldier. Were you able on any occasion to give advice to Jennifer Lawrence, based on what your father told you?
Linsey’s experience in the film seems very different to me, so I didn’t try to really guide her in her character. My father is a black man who was drafted into the army. He did not join it voluntarily to serve his country. My father knew America in full segregation. He was enlisted in a war that did not concern him but also experienced living in a country that explained to him that he had no value. War is something that never leaves you in peace. I saw it with my father. We tend to normalize the trauma associated with that, we try to make it something not so serious, but it is. One cannot imagine the post-traumatic stress experienced by these soldiers. They cannot resume a normal life. I was mostly inspired by my father in the fact that my character is also a man who stayed in his hometown and lives in a country that still doesn’t consider him a normal person.
The last episode of the series Atlanta, in which you played rapper Paper Boi, recently aired. What memories do you have of this series that forever changed American television?
I have so many. I think the main thing is my relationship with Donald Glover, Lakeith Stanfield and Zazie Beetz. Together, we lived an incredible adventure with Atlanta. I consider Hiro Murai, the director of many episodes of the series, as one of my heroes. To me, Atlanta will have felt like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. When we started, we were young adults. We didn’t really understand what we had gotten ourselves into. We wanted to show the utmost honesty, that people have a good time, but above all we wanted to tell our stories, as absurd and surreal as they may seem. We wanted to show what it’s like to be black in the United States. I still remember the time I saw a huge sign in Los Angeles promoting the show. It was amazing to see four black people featured on a poster, I pinched myself to believe it. I owe the city of Atlanta a lot. It was there that I understood who I was and who I wanted to be in the future. This series gave me the opportunity to pay tribute to him and I will be forever grateful for that. I am also very proud to tell myself that this series has surprised many viewers, that it has sometimes made them aware of certain things. That’s exactly what we wanted to do and I think we did it well.