Actor and director Charles Dutton stopped by the Washington Watch studios recently to discuss the new film he directed, “The Obama Effect.” The movie tells the story of a man, played by Dutton, who rebuilds his life after a heart attack by dedicating himself to the 2008 Obama campaign.
MR. MARTIN: Welcome back.
Actor and director Charles Dutton stopped by the studio recently to discuss the new film he directed, “The Obama Effect.” The movie tells the story of a man, played by Dutton, who rebuilds his life after a heart attack by dedicating himself to the 2008 Obama campaign.
[BEGIN FILM CLIP.]
CHARLES DUTTON AS JOHN THOMAS: You know what we’re listening to here, Max? History in the making. The man is the next President of the United States.
MAX: Aw, come on. I don’t know about that.
JOHN THOMAS: The country can’t survive another four years of a Republican –
VOICE: John, you okay?
[JOHN COLLAPSES. SOUND OF A SIREN. JUMP CUT TO JOHN IN A HOSPITAL BED.]
VANESSA BELL CALLOWAY AS MOLLY THOMAS: A heart attack, John?
[JUMP CUT TO JOHN IN ANOTHER SETTING.]
MR. THOMAS: What do you do when you fall off the path, and you want to get back on?
GRANDMOTHERLY BLACK WOMAN: You just keep following the blueprint the Lord puts in front of you.
[JUMP CUT TO PRES. BARACK OBAMA SPEAKING ON TELEVISION AS JOHN WATCHES, ENTHRALLED.]
PRES. BARACK OBAMA: We are one nation. We are one people, and our time for change has come!
[JUMP CUT TO FOOTAGE OF JOHN WORKING TO ELECT CANDIDATE BARACK OBAMA.]
MR. THOMAS: Think history, folks. History!
[JUMP CUT TO MOLLY IN THE FAMILY HOME, IN A ROOM CLUTTERED WITH CAMPAIGN PARAPHERNALIA AND WITH PHOTOS OF BARACK OBAMA PLASTERING THE WALLS. SHE THROWS HERSELF PROTECTIVELY AGAINST A BLANK WALL.]
MS. THOMAS: [Pleads.] Not this wall! Just leave me somethin’, baby!
[JUMP CUT TO JOHN SPEAKING TO VOTERS.]
MR. THOMAS: This is an important time, people. Don’t be on the wrong side of history.
[JUMP CUT TO A CONVERSATION BETWEEN JOHN AND HIS LATINO NEIGHBOR.]
LATINO: We’ve been neighbors for a long time, John. I’ve never seen you act this way, man. Well, you wanna know how I really feel? I feel strongly about being undecided!
[JUMP CUT TO JOHN IN THE OFFICE.]
MR. THOMAS: It’s my letter of resignation.
WHITE BOSS: [Incredulous.] You’re willing to quit your job over this?
MR. THOMAS: Some things are worth quitting your job over.
[JUMP CUT TO JOHN AND MOLLY SEATED AT A RESTAURANT.]
MS. THOMAS: [Expletive obscured] – have you lost your – what are we gonna do for money?
[JUMP CUT TO JOHN SHEEPISHLY EXPLAINING TO SHOCKED DINERS.]
MR. THOMAS: She didn’t say that. She said, uh … she said “igger.” That’s my nickname.
[JUMP CUT TO JOHN ONCE AGAIN SEATED ACROSS FROM MOLLY.]
MR. THOMAS: I thought maybe I could get a loan from your nephew.
MS. THOMAS: You are wasting your time if you’re trying to recruit him.
[JUMP CUT TO KATT WILLIAMS AS “MLK.”]
MLK: I’m a Republican – a gun-totin’, God-fearin’, pro-war, fla-a-ag-wavin’, anti-this, anti-that, anti-black if it’ll make me some money. Ya man can’t win. He just can’t win, John.
[JUMP CUT TO VARIOUS SHOTS AND THEN TO A SCENE IN A BLACK HAIR SALON.]
MR. THOMAS: Anybody who’s with the Obama campaign is gonna be all right!
BLACK MAN: Yeah. I’m workin’ for free.
A black man is running for president. Because of my record, I can’t vote.
[JUMP CUT. JOHN IS BEAMING TRIUMPHANTLY.]
MR. THOMAS: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue!
[JUMP CUT TO JOHN, OVERCOME WITH EMOTION, AND THE SOUNDS OF JUBILATION. BARACK OBAMA HAS BEEN ELECTED!]
[END OF FILM CLIP. BEGIN INTERVIEW WITH CHARLES DUTTON.]
MR. MARTIN: So, let’s talk about this film that you’ve done called “The Obama Effect.”
MR. DUTTON: We couldn’t get a major studio to distribute it.
MR. MARTIN: Really?
MR. DUTTON: Couldn’t get it, and we went through all the majors.
MR. MARTIN: And what did they say? Because we – we’ve had other folks on this show, and – first of all, “Washington Watch,” we’ve been huge supporters of African-Americans, films targeting African-Americans, and we’ve had many folks sit in this chair and say the exact, same thing: great story, great storyline, great cast. Major studios say, “Ah, no, thank you.”
MR. DUTTON: That’s the – you – you hit it right on the head: “Charles, wonderful movie. Oh, oh, it’s so charming. Poignant. I laughed. I cried. But, however, it’s not for us.”
“Well, we don’t feel we should be associated with a completely pro-Obama film, because [of] the criticism we may take.”
And so I was a little thrown aback by it, because I don’t know who exactly is distributing “2016,” the – the virament [sic – phonetic] – vir[u]lent anti-Obama –
MR. MARTIN: Right.
MR. DUTTON: — film, but –
MR. MARTIN: Which i- — which is the second highest-grossing –
MR. DUTTON: — absolutely.
MR. MARTIN: — documentary –
MR. DUTTON: Absolutely.
MR. MARTIN: — in – in Hollywood history.
MR. DUTTON: Absolutely. But at the same time, we really couldn’t get any so-called “liberal” money behind the picture to promote it. So, we were in a little bit of a con- — quandary. Hollywood said no.
MR. MARTIN: So – so, also liberal Hollywood, who lo-o-oves Democrats, who loves –
MR. DUTTON: That’s one of the biggest –
MR. MARTIN: — Obama –
MR. DUTTON: — myths in – in the history of – [chuckles] – of the United States – that Hollywood is so liberal. Hollywood, to me, is – has a pinch of liberalism and a who-o-ole pot of conservative, right-wing, anti-people-of-color thoughts. And – and when – every time you turn on the television every night, it’s obviously apparent. And regardless of how many times Jesse goes out there, or the NAACP, it’s given lip service. I mean they give lip service to the question of racism, the question of diversity. Yeah, they form – they form programs, and occasionally a – a person of color will go through the system and become a show runner or a writer, but very minuscule. It’s still one-isms. Yeah, the – the handful of black stars work, but it’s that one guy, the – who – the matinee idol, the – the character idol, the – the old guy. And, you know, there’s Morgan, there’s Sam, there’s Denzel, and there’s everybody under that, you know.
MR. MARTIN: ’Cause, you know, I – I read a book – and the name will come to me very soon – that talked about the history of Hollywood. And to your point, in reading that book – and – and it went all the way back to the beginning, and it laid out – flat-out – that Hollywood has always been an extremely conservative institution.
MR. DUTTON: Sure. Sure.
MR. MARTIN: The financiers, the folks who control it, the folks who control – the studio heads. And so what is – to your point, it’s sort of, “Oh, yeah. We’ll support these causes,” but – but when it comes to the decision making, it’s very clear exactly what the goal is.
MR. DUTTON: Um-hum. Well, there – the – be honest. There’s nobody of color who can greenlight a project out there. Now, there’re certain people that – that are on their own little islands – you know: [the] Tyler Perrys of the world, Oprahs, et cetera, who can get things done in their genre, but anything beyond that, there’s not one, single person of color who can greenlight a project –
MR. MARTIN: Right.
MR. DUTTON: — to go. And if the major stars – there are stars. There are – there are major actors of color out there, and then there are major movie stars of color. Very different thing between [an] actor and a movie star. They can get their projects off the ground.
MR. MARTIN: We can keep slamming our heads up against the wall to try to tell Hollywood, “Oh, please, please, please, please,” or finally say, “You know what? We’ve got to do an end [run] around” – “around you guys.”
MR. DUTTON: Absolutely. I mean – and – and, you know – and – and a lot of us have been screaming for that for – for a decade or more now, that, you know, the billions of dollars that we spend in that market, and we don’t get a chance to see ourselves on those major kind of movies.
[END OF SEGMENT ON “THE OBAMA EFFECT.”]
MR. MARTIN: Charles Dutton’s “The Obama Effect” is now out on DVD and available on demand from most cable systems.