In Just Mercy, Rob Morgan and Tim Blake Nelson offer eye-opening depictions of two very different men.
While the film is full of masterful performances, these two actors raised the bar in more ways than one.
Nelson portrays Ralph Myers, an inmate who shaved time off of his sentence for a crime by falsely accusing Walter McMillan (Jamie Foxx) of a murder he didn’t commit. His testimony is ultimately what earned McMillan his death sentence, but Myers isn’t necessarily the racist villain we assume he is.
“The prosecution was very lucky when they found Ralph, who was a pretty unstable guy with his own extremely difficult and damaging past…And it’s enormously tragic what they put him through to get him to testify,” offers Nelson.
Throughout the course of the film, we come to see Myers as a victim himself, shedding light on the way that some white folks are manipulated into keeping Black men down.
“I look at it as a journey that this character takes and a very coherent one, however surprising,” he told theGrio during our exclusive interview.
“What the character is really meant to explore and represent in the movie is the way that poor whites are co-opted to continue the suppression of people of color and I thought that was real fascinating. It made the character very sympathetic to me as an actor.”
Nelson is nearly unrecognizable in the role that required him to fully commit to the inner and outer scars his character carries.
Morgan plays Herbert Richardson, a death row inmate who killed someone while suffering from PTSD after serving in Vietnam. “Unfortunately, he committed a very heinous act, but might not have understood the totality of what he was doing in the condition he was in mentally at the time,” explains the actor.
Watching Richardson grapple with his own guilt, tormented by the fact that he has blood on his hands and will die as a consequence of something he truly had no control over is heartbreaking and thought-provoking. Seeing how his fellow death row inmates, who have become his closest friends and allies offer him what little support they could is equally powerful.
Check out the full interview with Rob Morgan and Tim Blake Nelson above.
Just Mercy opens wide on January 10 and is in select theaters now.