Night Catches Us Director Tanya Hamilton Talks Inspiration Behind Debut Feature Film! Exclusive Interview!

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By: Dove

The new film Night Catches Us starring Kerry Washington and Anthony Mackie is the house that a decade of dedication built. Writer/director Tanya Hamilton began putting the story together in 1999, and although she changed the perspective of it over time, the final result proved to be a strong debut for the Philadelphia filmmaker as Night Catches Us hit the festival circuits.

Positive reviews from critics eventually caught the attention of Magnolia Pictures in early 2010, and a national release date was finally set. A painter and former teacher, Hamilton is a graduate of Columbia University’s Division of Film and Cooper Union School of Art. She has received several awards for her short film work in recent years, and is proud of her full-length debut feature.

Along with Mackie and Washington, the talented cast also includes Wendell Pierce (The Wire, Treme), Jamie Hector (The Wire, Heroes) and newcomer Amari CheatomTanya Hamilton explained to UrbLife.com that she had picked up the story and put it down several times in the past 10 years, but never had any actors in mind for the parts until they actually had funds to produce the movie.

“For almost as long as I’d had the project, I had been interested in Mackie, and we had two other actors attached,” she told us. “When we finally got the funding and decided to cast, he was the first person we went to, and once we were able to get him, Kerry Washington came naturally. They had their own relationship because they had worked together before on [Spike Lee's] She Hate Me. Frankly, I think we got lucky.”

Anthony Mackie, who committed to the role of Marcus Washington in Night Catches Us soon after The Hurt Locker won six Academy Awards including Best Picture in 2009, portrays the character with an angst and masculine integrity that audiences will appreciate in a leading man.

“I think that he’s got a balance of being a father, and also being a man… a husband. I enjoy watching his performance,” asserts Hamilton.

The rest of the cast seemed to flow right into place as Night Catches Us evolved, and Hamilton pays credit to casting agent Lois Drabkin. “She loved the [guys from The Wire], and she brought in Jamie Hector, and I was like I can’t believe Marlo is here, like why even bring him in, he’s Marlo, he’s beautiful!” Tanya laughs.

Wendell Pierce can act in his sleep, Then Amari Cheatom who plays Jimmy – he’s waiting to find his space and make his mark. The young woman [Jamara Griffin] who plays Iris, we did this long search in Philly to find this character, and saw a million kids and then we found her.”

Anthony Mackie, Jamie Hector and Wendell Pierce in Night Catches Us

Tariq Trotter, better known as Black Thought of the world famous Roots crew, also makes an appearance in Night Catches Us, and the band scored the film as well. That relationship also came about somewhat naturally, as Tanya already had business ties with The Roots agent.

“I worked with their manager, who is a big creative force in the band. I have a partner who I worked on the music with, and we’d been thinking about the score for a long time. We would send [The Roots] random songs, and they’d [give feedback].

“The film was a collaborative effort,” Hamilton continues. “I really enjoyed all of the people creatively I had to work with. I had these ideas, but really the ideas were refined by everyone.”

While Night Catches Us is undeniably a period piece, Tanya didn’t go after experts to capture the essence of the era.

“I think I deliberately stayed far from that. This is not my story, this is not my life. I felt like I was taking a lot of liberties. I was borrowing threads from people I knew, but also from articles and things I read. I felt like I was taking a lot. In weaving this fictional world, and my juvenile sort of fears, I felt like I did not want to bring anyone in who had lived this life, except for my aunt, who I sort of modeled the Patty character after… and she cussed me out like, “Why are you putting my life on screen!” Tanya laughs.

“I liked weaving this world of fiction and pieces of fact, but I didn’t want to feel like I was getting it wrong, so I just did my thing. It’s really just about people, and that I thought I could understand.”

Night Catches Us is in theaters December 3! Watch the trailer below!

Synopsis from Magnolia Films:

In 1976, after years of mysterious absence, Marcus (Anthony Mackie – The Hurt Locker) returns to the Philadelphia neighborhood where he came of age in the midst of the Black Power movement. While his arrival raises suspicion among his family and former neighbors, he finds acceptance from his old friend Patricia (Kerry Washington – Ray, Lift) and her daughter.

However, Marcus quickly finds himself at odds with the organization he once embraced, whose members suspect he orchestrated the slaying of their former comrade-in-arms. In a startling sequence of events, Marcus must protect a secret that could shatter everyone’s beliefs as he rediscovers his forbidden passion for Patricia.


CLICK HERE to read our exclusive interview with Jamie Hector!

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