Actor Lance Reddick wasn’t surprised to see union members picketing the New York City premiere of his film “Won’t Back Down” earlier this week. Reddick is a union member himself, and he understands that his peers thought they were protecting their fellow members.
What galled Reddick, best known for roles on “Fringe,” “Lost” and “The Wire,” was the fact that most of the protesters probably hadn’t even seen his movie.
“They’re protesting based on things circulated about the film by the unions,” says Riddick, who plays the husband of the teacher (Viola Davis) trying to take over a failing elementary school. “I don’t think this film is anti-union. It could be interpreted that way … it’s critical of the system as a whole.”
“Won’t Back Down” follows a single mother (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and teacher (Davis) trying to give their children the best education possible. If that means taking over the school their children currently attend, then that’s exactly what they’ll do – no matter how high the odds stacked against them.
Reddick marveled at the quality of script, co-written by director Daniel Barnz, as well as the power of its message. He didn’t shrink from tackling challenging material, but he did find it “daunting” for the film to hit theaters at such an opportune time.
The national elections are mere weeks away, and the public school imbroglio in Chicago solidified the need for people to talk about the current state of education.
The new film may spark a national debate on the “Parent Trigger” law the main characters seek out to force change in their local school. Reddick says the current economic state also must play a part in the debate.
He recalls a conversation his wife had with two friends over dinner. One taught school in a poor neighborhood and the other had children attending an affluent private school. Children in the former’s school often show up hungry and tired, and their parents are sometimes high. Kids in the latter school benefited from parents who were able to raise large sums for teacher enrichment.
The education debate demands to include that context, he says.
Reddick’s next two films could draw long lines too, but you won’t likely see any picket signs as he witnessed this week. He’s set to appear in Spike Lee’s “Oldboy,” the remake of the popular Korean film, as well as director Roland Emmerich’s “White House Down.”
“I’ve never done a tentpole [movie], at least not since ‘The Siege,'” he says.
For now, he’s soaking in the chance to star in a project with a definitive call to action.
“We’ve gotten so used to entertainment for entertainment’s sake we’ve forgotten what a powerful tool what we do is,” he says.