×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Listen: Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal on Bay Area Music and ‘Blindspotting’

PLAYBACK is a Variety / iHeartRadio podcast bringing you conversations with the talents behind many of today’s hottest films. New episodes air every Thursday.

Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal met at a poetry slam and bonded over music while coming up in the Bay Area. They worked feverishly to crank out albums and mix tapes and assembled an Oakland collective, The Get Back, to stretch their creativity with like minds. Diggs has since gone on to become the Grammy- and Tony-winning star of the hit musical “Hamilton” and carve his path in television series like “The Get Down” and “black-ish,” while Casal is poised to take off with his first role alongside Diggs in “Blindspotting.” The film, which the duo wrote and developed for the better part of a decade, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. It’s a searing portrait of the Oakland they see quickly evaporating, as well as an avenue for them to explore verse-driven narrative on the big screen.

Listen to this week’s episode of “Playback” below. New episodes air every Thursday.

Click here for more episodes of “Playback.”

“The lynchpin was about verse and us wanting to tell a Bay Area story,” Diggs says. “Around that same time, Oscar Grant was killed at Fruitvale BART story, so all of a sudden, in order to tell a Bay Area story, that’s the story we’re talking about. That was just in the air. Oscar’s face was everywhere and there was all these protests and riots.”

The themes developed out from there. By virtue of the world they were writing about, topics like gentrification and identity organically came to the fore.

“I don’t even know that gentrification was a word we were throwing around as a major theme. It was a convention we could use,” Casal says. “Originally the idea of [our characters] as movers was the way to get around to all these points of view in the city. What happened was over 10 years, it went from, like, ‘There is an influx of people’ to ‘There is a massive takeover of people not from the Bay Area.’ So the urgency raised for us, about this time capsule at this moment.”

Innovating in media is something Diggs and Casal say Bay Area artists take a lot of pride in. It’s inherently in the spirit of art coming out of the area, and both come from what Casal calls “that multi-hyphenate artist generation where you always do five other things,” so it was inevitable their work with verse on the stage would bleed into cinema.

“The earliest examples of theater are in verse,” Diggs says. “Verse has been around as a mode of storytelling for a long time. We came up through this poetry scene in which you learn verse skills in order to force people to listen to you. It’s why you teach kids poems, because nobody cares what they have to say so you make it sound pretty and then everyone will listen to you. But there’s technique to that, too … We didn’t want it to feel like a musical and we didn’t want to make [the characters] aspiring musicians. This is a practical and fun tool, used in the way we sort of grew up using it. And that’s a very Bay Area thing. Language is so important to us. And we imagine it can be an important tool in film as well.”

For more, including tons of discussion about the Bay Area hip-hop scene of the last 20 years, listen to the latest episode of “Playback” via the streaming link above.

iHeartRadio
Hear more episodes of “Playback” at iHeartRadio.
Subscribe via iTunes.

More Film

  • Midnight Traveler review

    Film Review: 'Midnight Traveler'

    Refugees rarely get to tell their own stories, which means their stories get told for them — often inaccurately and with undue hostility. Lack of resources is one issue, but a lack of stability is another: Asylum-seekers are in a frightening state of limbo, fleeing the imminent dangers of their native countries only to suffer [...]

  • WGA Authorizing Managers, Lawyers to Make

    WGA Authorizing Managers, Lawyers to Make Deals if Agents are Fired

    The Writers Guild of America has authorized managers and lawyers to negotiate deals for writers in place of agents — if the guild tells members to fire their agents on April 7. The guild’s negotiating committee notified members of the plans in a message Wednesday. The WGA and the Association of Talent Agents having made [...]

  • Gone With the Wind Screening

    Film News Roundup: 'Gone With the Wind' Sets Event Cinema Record

    In today’s film news roundup, “Gone with the Wind” sets a new record, “Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles” is acquired, and Tracy Oliver signs with Topic Studios. EVENT CINEMA RECORD The 80th anniversary release of “Gone with the Wind” has grossed $2.23 million in six nationwide screenings on four dates — a record as the [...]

  • Made in Abyss - Journey’s Dawn

    Film Review: ‘Made in Abyss: Journey’s Dawn’

    It’s a Herculean effort to take a multi-volume manga like author Akihito Tsukushi’s “Made in Abyss,” adapt it into a popular anime television series, and then compress the show into a coherent feature (technically, two movies), but the folks at Sentai Filmworks have done just that. Part one, “Made in Abyss: Journey’s Dawn,” will screen [...]

  • HAF: 'Assassination,' 'Apprenticeship' Named Project Market

    HAF: 'Assassination,' 'Apprenticeship' Named Project Market Winners

    Eighteen prizes were presented on Wednesday afternoon at the closing ceremony of the Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum. The project market sits alongside FilMart as part of the Entertainment Expo in Hong Kong. “Wong Tai Sin Assassination” to be directed by Wong Hoi and produced by Derek Kwok Tsz-kin, was named the winner of [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    Writers Guild Makes Concession on Film Financing in Agent Talks

    The Writers Guild of America has made a concession in film financing in its negotiations with Hollywood talent agents — the second in six weeks of talks. WGA West executive director David Young said Wednesday that it had made a “significant move” toward reaching a deal with the Association of Talent Agents for a revamped [...]

  • Noah Centineo He-Man

    Noah Centineo to Play He-Man in 'Masters of the Universe' Reboot

    From a boy (who’s loved) to He-Man. Noah Centineo is in talks to take on the superhero in Sony Pictures and Mattel Films’ “Masters of the Universe.” Brothers Adam and Aaron Nee are directing the reboot. Mattel Films is partnering with Sony on the movie, which is based on Mattel’s beloved toy line that spawned [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content