Richard Jenkins, along with co-star Haaz Sleiman and producer Michael London, were on hand Thursday night at the Variety Screening Series to discuss their indie hit “The Visitor.”
In a sitdown with managing editor Ted Johnson, Jenkins revealed that while filming, first-time thesp Danai Gurira told him her mother, a native of Zimbabwe, had gone to a “small Midwestern” school in the U.S. As it would happen, Jenkins attended the same school and remembered her.
“I mean there weren’t that many people from Zimbabwe on campus,” Jenkins joked.
The trio agreed that, much like Jenkins’ story, the film puts a face to the immigration issue.
“Once there’s a face on the other side of that glass, it changes everything,” Jenkins said, referring to the detainment of illegal immigrants. “You trust this script and these people.”
The socio-political nature of “The Visitor” is what draws audiences, London said, but it’s the human connection that makes them invest in it.
“At the time, I think the reason why we made the movie was because of the political context, not in spite of it,” he said.
London spoke about the film’s financing and the risk of casting Jenkins in the starring role. That decision was made by director Tom McCarthy, and it’s a gamble that paid off.
“I didn’t want to let Tom down,” Jenkins said.
Considering his already buzzed-about perf has gained critical acclaim and the pic has earned more than $11 million worldwide, he’s more than held his end of the bargain.