John Boyega on working with ‘generous, genuine’ Michael K. Williams in ‘892’

The actor spoke to theGrio's Cortney Wills about his new film and working with Williams

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892 premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, marking the feature directorial debut of Abi Damaris Corbin. The film showcases stunning performances from John Boyega and Nicole Beharie, as well as the last screen role for the late Michael K. Williams. 

Co-written by Kwame Kwei-Armah, the plot feels a bit familiar and some obvious fumbling from the first-time director keeps it from being perfect, but it’s still a worthy watch that serves as an indictment of the way this country treats its veterans. 

Pacing is the main detractor, as well as a lack of focus, but the final product is gripping enough to keep viewers invested. Viewers who know the true story of Brian Easley, a man who walked into an Atlanta-area Wells Fargo bank claiming to have a bomb in 2017, may pray for an alternate ending even though they already know how it turns out.  

“I think fundamentally, how I felt when I first read it, is it felt like just a very profound moment of purpose for me,” Boyega told theGrio. “I was actually so moved, frustrated and angry about a situation that kind of precedes in the script. And that in itself just creates a passion. I was able to get to a point where we were able to create Brian and to create a version of him that does the real Brian justice.”

Although the ex-Marine’s fate is inevitable, Boyega’s portrayal of the PTSD-plagued father, struggling to stay above water after returning from war, will have you rooting for him until the bitter end.

Boyega does an exquisite job of portraying the well-meaning man plagued by mental illness. 

John Boyega, shown at the EE British Academy Film Awards in Feb. 2020. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

“How do we bring the narrative of the pages to the screen and tell this story for Brian? His body movements tell the story through the stress of his voice, the constant head tapping that Brian used to do in real life,” Boyega said.

“There were sometimes the distant kind of off-topic conversations he would have spontaneously, and topics that would come out of nowhere – these are details that we discussed that we knew would be incorporated into the film. I just took in the man as an individual and thankfully we had enough research to help aid, to help guide my performance decisions.”

The most heartbreaking thing about watching Easley maneuver through the situation is that he also knows he doesn’t have a chance. Despite police officer Eli Bernard’s (Williams) best efforts, we know this Black man won’t make it home alive. But, he’s hoping to be heard before he meets the bullets we know are waiting for him.

892 presented an opportunity for Boyega to reunite with Williams, with whom he collaborated on his very first film project, Attack the Block. Boyega was instrumental in getting him to do this film. 

Michael K. Williams
Michael K. Williams poses for the 2021 Critics Choice Awards on March 7, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images for ABA)

“Michael was someone that— I remember going and buying The Wire from season one to four and having to binge watch it in my small little flat in South London. I’m being inspired by all these actors who came out from various different areas of Baltimore, who were not given an opportunity to play such nuanced roles, and he always intrigued me as a stand out in the show,” said Boyega.

“So for me, it was like it was a moment of, ‘Yeah, you know what, we’re colleagues. I requested you be in this movie and you pulled through, but I’m also learning.’ I’m also taking notes on this brother because this guy is generous and genuine and that’s something that I want to embody as well. So it was definitely a blessing having him on this, but most importantly, having moments with him that were real.”

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