Jeymes Samuel and LaKeith Stanfield on ‘The Book of Clarence,’ filming a biblical epic

TheGrio caught up with the actor and filmmaker to break down their latest collaboration.

"The Book Of Clarence" Special Screening
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - DECEMBER 12: LaKeith Stanfield and Jeymes Samuel attend "The Book of Clarence" special screening at Regal Atlantic Station on December 12, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Derek White/Getty Images) Credit: Photo byDerek White / Getty Images

“The Book of Clarence” is finally here. The second feature film from the mind of Jeymes Samuel hits theaters this weekend, which sees the filmmaker taking on a major genre in cinema: the biblical epic. TheGrio’s Cortney Wills caught up with Samuel and the film’s star, LaKeith Stanfield, breaking down their approach to the story and certain challenges filming presented when making the project.

"The Book Of Clarence" Special Screening
(Left to right) LaKeith Stanfield and Jeymes Samuel attend “The Book of Clarence” special screening at Regal Atlantic Station on Dec. 12 in Atlanta. (Photo by Derek White/Getty Images) Credit: Photo byDerek White / Getty Images

While Samuel’s feature film debut “The Harder They Fall” centered Black talent and characters in the Western genre, “The Book of Clarence” takes us back thousands of years to biblical times. “You know, the ethos is the same really, create singular pieces of art that are true to your experience. I believe if you do that and if you stay true to who you are as a storyteller, you’re always going to be walking in new territory.”

Still, despite his work on “The Harder They Fall,” he said “nothing” could have prepared him for working on this film. “Now, we’re going back 2,000 years … chariot races, gladiator fights, crucifixions.” He added, “Nothing could prepare us. But for me, I think we just had to remain true to who we are and the story that we’re telling. I don’t think there was anything I carried over from ‘The Harder They Fall’ … this was an entirely new experience.”

Stanfield stars as Clarence in the film, a “streetwise but struggling” man living in the time of Jesus Christ, as well as Clarence’s twin brother, Thomas. “Captivated by the power and glory of the rising Messiah and His apostles, he [Clarence] risks everything to carve his own path to a divine life, a journey through which he finds redemption and faith, power and knowledge,” the official synopsis reads.

For Stanfield, his approach was all about diving into the character of Clarence. “I just got into the mindset of Clarence. That is what he was experiencing, and I know those feelings. They’re not foreign to me and I figured they wouldn’t be foreign to the audience as well. I just wanted to pay homage to them in the moment.”

Recommended Stories

“It became, at some point, a lot of it just really allowing some of the feelings that I had let lie dormant in my own self, sort of come to the surface and be realized through Clarence,” he continued. “I was grateful for that because in those moments it became cathartic. But, you know, yeah, it was just really situating myself in his shoes, in his life and seeing the world through his perspective.”

“He wanted to be somebody and he wanted to show that there was more to him than what meets the eye and that he too could feel and soar like a god. And he was right, but he had to learn some very valuable lessons before he was able to actually unlock his potential. Not unlike me.”

“The Book of Clarence” debuts in theaters on Friday.

Never miss a beat: Get our daily stories straight to your inbox with theGrio’s newsletter.