The cast of Spike Lee’s latest joint, “BlacKkKlansman,” gathered at New York City’s BAM Harvey Theater on Monday night for the film’s premiere. The stars talked about America’s political state since Donald Trump became president, with many drawing parallels between Focus Features’ crime-drama about race relations and social justice in 1970s America to the present day.
Lee’s film details the real-life heroic events of Ron Stallworth (portrayed by John David Washington), the first African-American to serve on the Colorado Springs Police Department; he launched an undercover operation to infiltrate and expose the hateful messages and violent rhetoric of the Ku Klux Klan.
Though set in a different era, Lee includes footage from 2017’s events in Charlottesville, Va., in which a clash between white nationalists and counter-protesters led to the death of social activist Heather Heyer. In the wake of the horrifying events, Trump refrained from denouncing the alt-right while national KKK leader and Trump supporter David Duke insisted these acts represented “a turning point for the people of this country … to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump.”
Ryan Eggold, who portrays local KKK recruiter Walter Breachway in the film, chastised the president for emboldening neo-Nazis. “Not immediately condemning white supremacists for attacking people is inexcusable. He encourages division, he encourages hatred towards the media, he encourages people to fight each other at his rallies,” he told Variety.
“I don’t think we would’ve seen what happened in Charlottesville … had we not had a president who basically endorses white supremacy,” said co-star Laura Harrier. “We need to keep making films like this that talk about our current situation and stand up against it and say that this is not okay.”
Washington said footage of the rally in Charlottesville serves as “the connective tissue” between the past and present. “[‘BlacKkKlansman’] is a very influential film about the resurgence of the klan and ending it with [Charlottesville footage] shows we’ve got a long way to go,” he added.
Jason Blum of Blumhouse, one of the four production companies behind “BlacKkKlansman,” encouraged Americans to take action. “We have to all vote and get this maniac out of office so we can go back to normal life,” Blum said, while comedian Tiffany Haddish was tight-lipped on the subject. “I shouldn’t answer that question because that’s going to start some s—,” she exclaimed.
Co-stars Topher Grace and Harry Belafonte were also in attendance at the U.S. premiere, with notable guests including Denzel Washington, Danny Glover, and Danielle Brooks.