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SHAFT: Defines Black Excellence All Around In A Film

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Shaft (2019) is an action comedy that continues the story of the previous films (starring Samuel L. Jackson and Richard Roundtree). The new installment follows the life of JJ (Jessie T. Usher), an FBI rookie analyst who wants to solve the case of his best friends death. There is no one more capable of helping uncover the truth then his father, Legend of the Harlem streets, John Shaft (Jackson).  When things get to heavy they turn to the patriarch of the family, the grandfather, better known as the original Shaft (Roundtree). Three generations on the case, JJ soon learns what being apart of the Shaft bloodline truly means. Get ready for laughter from start to finish. The Warner Brothers Picture, Shaft (2019) will be in theatre June 14th. Whereisthebuzz correspondent, Danteé Ramos sat with some of the cast of the new installment at Red Rooster Harlem to discuss their take on the movie.

Dantee: “After watching the movie, I feel as though Shaft is for the people who grew up watching the films overtime while introducing my generation with a new and younger Shaft like JJ.  What would you like our younger generation within our culture to take away from the characters and the films?”

Regina Hall: Hopefully it’s a great time, and they’re laughing. It’s definitely In-politically correct but I hope get they get to have fun with that. I loved the way they evolved, Shaft Jr. to be broader than his dad but there’s a lot his dad brings to the table too you know, like wisdom, experience, understanding the streets, what it’s like to look a man in the eye. So I think there’s something that every generation can take away from that. The younger generation can take from the older and the older can take from the younger millennial. I think we all have something incredible to share and there’s a lot of humor to share.

Danteé: From my perception, in the movie Shaft (Jackson) seems like Mia’s (Hall) kryptonite in a sense. Outside of the acting world what is Ms. Halls Kryptonite?.

Regina Hall: Food! (Laughs) I love food. I’m like Regina you should not eat that. I have a sweet tooth, and I love fries and it’s just really hard. I’m a salt girl. Like you know you have press and premiere but just go ahead and do it (shrugs).

Dantee: It seems like Shaft  (Jackson) has rules he goes by, like street rules. Are there ground rules that you use in your everyday life?.

Regina Hall:  oh, hmm, I don’t know. I try not to let myself dwell on something to long. I try to look at the other person’s point of view so it makes me a lot less one sided, more empathy and I have to make sure I talk to my mommy a couple times a day.

Dantee: Mia’s character never took Shafts BS and was always there to hand it to him, How did you prepare?, And what like experiences did you have that helped you bring that character to life?.

Regina Hall: Well I have brothers and ex’ boyfriend’s, that’s all the preparation you need. They help you dig deep into that. Working with Sam (Jackson) is also great, he’s so great. Sometimes he would say “Oh, you could do this”, helps you play around”. I have friends too that have been through pain, so those things create who you are. I think we all have been in love and felt that emotion and what comes from it.

Jessie T. Usher plays the new Shaft in town in the new installment. Usher who’s gained recognition for his prior roles in the Starz series “Survivor’s Remorse, and the sequel to the blockbuster film “Independence Day Resurgence” chatted with Whereisthebuzzz about his new journey.

Danteé: With you being the younger Shaft (JJ), what did you do with the character to bridge that gap between the older generation and younger generation?, because I think most of my enjoyment being a younger viewer was being able to relate and see how you coexisted with Samuel L. Jackson and Richard Rounrtree.

Jessie: The fact that Sam and I wanted to lean so much on the generational gap is what makes the movie relatable to people who don’t know the Shaft movies. People who grew up watching it are still going to appreciate it because we have the original Shaft playing that character, Richard Roundtree, we still have Samuel L. Jackson playing his character in this movie, so they get that, but, what we get is a character who can say these certain things in a very unforgiving way and who’s relatable with family life too.

Dantee: Shaft has rules that he wants you to go by since you’re apart of the bloodline. What are rules Jessie goes by in his everyday life?

Jessie: Just rules that I learned in a black family growing up like show respect to your elders, be a good person, be a leader not a follower. Those things matter more now that I’m an adult. I see why my parents taught me those things, why they repeated them so may times. I see so many people fall by the wayside because they didn’t hear those things or have the same ideals. I have a daughter now so those are things I say to her. Sometimes I catch myself like Damn, I sound just like my mom or dad right now but now I get it. Those are the rules of me; it’s in my DNA.

Dantee: Speaking of being raised, your character JJ is raised by his mother Mia (Hall) and he seems to focus on the lack of a father figure a lot. Who in your life has been a male influence and has shaped you?

Jessie: The men in my family, for good and bad reasons. My dad was a great example, Incredible. I learned so much just from being around him, how to be a man and be a father, to be respected in the community amongst other fellow men. Those types of things, I’ve learned from women too. I also get to learn from other family’s mistakes and see what happened, it’s a combination of things. As well as growing up and making mistakes on my own, we all have those moments. We eventually get to a point where we can look back and say, I remember that guy, and I grew.

Dantee: What did you take away from working with legends such as Jackson and Roundtree?

Jessie: Professionalism, you can only imagine. Everybody says come prepared, and that Sam is really professional, as long as you’re prepared. You get on set and he knows your lines too, that type of professionalism. To the point where if I change something he’ll acknowledge it, It’s nice to have that cause’ when you know something that well, that’s when you can branch off from it. We aren’t scrabbling to find a thing that work and then we can find other things that work too, that’s what this process was like. Having Richard there actually alleviated the pressure of working with Sam (laughs). Richard is a legend and is in projects that will be remembered forever and he gets on set like it’s his first day on the job. Which says so much to his character, it’s humbling.

Dantee: Do you think there will be a continuation?

Jessie: I hope so, I spoke to Kenya, he’s very happy with the project, which is a good sign. You never know, I really loved working with Tim Story too. I hope we can all go back and take this story line elsewhere. There’s still so much JJ and Shaft his father have to teach each other.

The movie wouldn’t have been complete without the OG himself, Richard Roundtree. We sat with him to talk about his legacy and taking on the big screen yet again.

Dantee: How was the transition like getting back on the big screen as your role of Shaft?

Richard: It was like riding a bike; I slipped back into that role even though the numbers are bigger. It’s an easy fit for me. I also know that Sam is the heavy lifter in this film, handing off the baton to him and he in turn hands it on to my grandson JJ. Watching my grandson’s transition from the nerd to owning his last name was great.

Dantee: What are some guidelines you follow just as Shaft does in the movies?

Richard: My dad always told me, never look up to anyone at least in the degree where you never look down on anyone. Shaft the character, I’ve gotten from the guy who first directed this film, Gordon Parks, if you used him as a guidepost, singularly he was the most elegant, gentle, sophisticated human being I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. Years later I realized Parks was Shaft, and everything he shared with me for the character was him, only when he left here did I realize that.

Dantee: Shaft can be looked as the first black super hero, what would you hope the younger generation would take away from his character or the movies in general?.

Richard: Absolutely, we don’t have a vote on where we go from here. We have to reach out and pull each other forward. This day and age we have got to look at all of things our lineage has experienced, grow from that. Strength, growth, stand up for something.

Photo Courtesy of Warner Bro Pictures

We also had the opportunity to cover the premiere of Shaft in New York City, Monday night (June 10th) we spoke with the legendary Samuel L. Jackson, Regina Hall, Luna Velez, Yandy Smith, and our favorite mother of all time Tina Knowles.


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