INTERVIEW: Malcolm D. Lee wants to make you laugh and think with his new Knock the Vote videos

Knock the Vote
Credit: Knock the Vote

Malcolm D. Lee has joined forces with Knock the Vote campaign creator ACRONYM to write and direct three videos aimed at getting people to the polls for the upcoming midterm elections. The videos—featuring Affion Crockett, Roy Wood Jr, and Melissa De Sousa—call out the ridiculous behavior of some white people who call the cops on Black folks for basically just existing. You’ve seen the videos of people calling the police on Black people for such egregious acts like sleeping, studying, and renting an Air BnB.

Lee’s videos flip the script though. Instead of white folks calling the cops on Black people, he has Crockett, Wood, and De Sousa dialing 911 on white people who don’t plan to vote and are doing things like taking selfies in a park. The vids are hilarious, but also thought-provoking.

The Night School director talked to theGrio in an exclusive interview about his involvement in the Knock the Vote campaign.

theGrio: How did you get involved with the Knock the Vote campaign?

Malcolm D. Lee: I’ve got some very passionate friends I went to school with back in the day—specifically Georgia Eisner and her husband. She gathered a bunch of people together towards the end of the summer to put some PSAs together, but I was busy with Night School and I was about to go travel with my dad, so I wasn’t really planning on doing anything with it. But then I ended up riffing off the idea of Black people calling the police on white people for no reason and they really liked it.  I thought that was going to be my only contribution to the project, but my wife convinced me to find the time for it, so I did.  I got the actors together and they handled all the logistics. They made it really easy for me.  We even shot it in my neighborhood. One of the videos was shot in my neighbor’s backyard. It was pretty great to just roll out of bed and get to work.

theGrio: What prompted you to agree to be involved in a campaign like this?

Malcolm D. Lee: You can forward articles and give examples about why people need to be involved in the Democratic process and why people are unhappy with the current administration. I’ve done and that I’ve called Congressmen and contributed money. I was thinking about what else could I do. How do I lend my talents to this? I figured I could contribute with directing and writing. I’m not happy with where things are. It’s very stressful and a lot of people are being disenfranchised. People are actively trying to limit my freedoms and freedoms of my fellow citizens. The idea of white folks calling the police on Black folks for everything is ridiculous and dangerous.

theGrio: How do you toe the line to add levity to very serious situations and not seem like you’re making light of important topics?

Malcolm D. Lee: The real examples of people having the cops on them for nothing are just as ridiculous. We just flipped it around. You’re taking a nap? We’re calling the cops. You’re selling water? We’re calling the cops. You’re writing a screenplay? We’re calling the cops. All of the scenarios you see in the videos I wrote and directed for this have some type of basis in reality. With humor you can get to the truth.  If their mouths are open, you can slip the truth in there. You can flip the script. Nobody wants to be preached to. This is my way of helping create change.

Watch all the three videos Lee wrote and directed below:



Learn more about theGrio’s stance on the midterm elections’ important issues impacting Black America by reading our manifesto and following the #BlackVoterPower hashtag.