'Down For Whatever' stars talk why we need more black cop driven flicks in Hollywood today
Hosea Chanchez and Imani Hakim sit in an exclusive with Meaww to discuss the importance of black cop flicks in today's society along with mental health of teenagers
The much anticipated TV One's first action film 'Down For Whatever' aired on Sunday 22. The TV-movie starring LeToya Luckett, Hosea Chanchez, Imani Hakim and Bre-Z was written by the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) winning writer Tim Folsome. First screened during the 2018 American Black Film Festival in Miami, the film has already garnered rave reviews.
In an exclusive interview with Meaww, two of the main leads -- Imani Hakim and Hosea Chanchez -- sat down to share some insights about their fictional characters, drawing parallels with their own stories and underlining the relevance of a black cop featuring flick in today's society.
"The cop scene being such a hot topic right now, and youth facing depression, anger and anxiety, I think the movie is very relevant today," says 24-years old Hakim, who plays Sonya, a killer. "Given the current situation, it is important to showcase the other side of a cop's standpoint and it all goes back to having empathy and compassion to people on all sides of the spectrum," she adds.
The film follows the story of a successful young female doctor, Tracy (Luckett), who works at a prestigious hospital. Her husband, Mike (Chanchez), is a detective cop trying to hunt down a cop-killing duo. Their relationship is all love and happiness but the only thing missing is a sense of family because Tracy grew up in foster care and longs for a traditional family she never had.
In a sudden turn of events, Mike loses his partner in a senseless cop-killing and is determined to hunt the killers down. Tracy is supportive until she receives an unexpected visit from a social worker who informs her that the ruthless killers suspected in the murder are her biological sisters, Denise (Bre-Z) and Sonya (Hakim). So before her husband tracks them down, she is determined to find the duo.
The action thriller, being the first of its kind on TV One, was bound to do well but the cast, however, was not necessarily under any pressure when shooting it. "It was, in fact, a really exciting new challenge," says Chanchez. "The network and the producers let us know that this was the first time they were doing this and they plan to treat the film right. You never know how it turns out but they were enthusiastic about getting it done right as its a first for them. We were relaxed and excited throughout," adds Chanchez.
For Hakim, who we know from her role as Tonya Rock on the CW sitcom 'Everybody Hates Chris,' action thriller was a completely new genre. Even though she has been acting since a really young age this was completely out of her "comfort zone."
"It was a major challenge to push myself in that mindset and remain in that mindset. Sometimes the character followed me and it was a challenge to come out of that," says Hakim. She tapped into the negative aspects of her role by humanizing Sonya and putting herself in her shoes.
"At the end of the day, she was the victim of so many things including child abuse, foster care system and having to witness her parents killed at such a young age, Sonya had to live through all these traumatic experiences. I approached my character from a non-judgemental view of just telling this girl's story," explains Hakim.
She also relates to the character in a certain way. "I have five brothers and I am super close to one and my relationship with him is basically ride or die," says Hakim. "So, that connection is the similarity for my character. The relationship between Sonya and Denise are of unconditional love and they have each other's back no matter what and that is exactly what I share with my brother," she adds.
As for Chanchez, who is best known as Malik Wright in 'The Game,' he was prepared to play the role of a cop. "Honestly, I've been prepared to play a cop ever since I was a little boy. As a young black boy, you know it's an ideal role, we've all played as kids- the cops," says Chanchez.
"I've played this role before in a small independent film some years ago and that gave me a taste that I completely loved. I couldn't wait to play one of our service people again. So it's just something I had been waiting for my whole life and I cannot wait to do it again," he adds.
Chanchez also relates to his on-screen character because he has similar ideologies to Mike. "Just the idea that my life is very black and white and I have learned throughout my years that the grey spaces and the grey area are where life really evolves and where you really live. I am similar to him in a way that I believe wholeheartedly in things that I know to be true and hold my conviction based on what I know to be true," Chanchez explains. "Luckily god always teaches us a lesson about the things that we think we know. We don't know everything. And in those lessons is where you learn humanity. There's a lot of compassion that is needed and a lot of forgiveness too and I identify these characteristics with my character," he adds.
While Chanchez explains this stance, Hakim agrees wholeheartedly. They might be hostile towards each other in the film but they have known each other for quite some time now. Chanchez's 'The Game' and Hakim's 'Everbody Hates Chris,' aired almost around the same time, give or take a year or two. So they kept seeing each other in CW parties but never interacted. It was also in this interview that Hakim realized that Chanchez follows Hakim on Instagram.
"I am her fan and her show. She may not realize this but our show was starting on the CW at the same time, maybe few years apart," says Chanchez. Hakim replies saying she remembers and she was a fan of 'The Game.'
While the relationship off the set was a cordial one, they had to work to bring alive the antagonism between their characters on the screen.
"I got into my role by dissecting the character and the script, and creating my own background, watching scenes, doing my own research that was triggering for me. I also sensed what this character could potentially be experiencing on her end and vibing that energy of what I would be willing to do for my sister if I were put in this exact situation," she states.
Chanchez, who was ever-so-ready to play the role of a cop, had a different challenge when it came to his portrayal. "The challenge was finding a perfect balance of playing a cop in today's time when a lot of negative stigmas are attached to service people," says Chanchez. "I just wanted to make sure that I did the job justice," he adds.
Both Chanchez and Hakim approached their roles with a human angle. While Chanchez learned that being a good cop is a spontaneous job as being a human being, mistakes happen cuz they are humans after all. "How the hell do you do your job?" he questions. As for Hakim, it was a realization that her character is human too and she went into it with the attitude of not judging. "My character can easily be painted as some monster who gets around killing cops but really in her head, it's justified, because of the pain the cop has caused in the past," she says.
But there is something important to be learned from Sonya's character, believes Hakim, who describes Sonya as "ride or die."
"Doing a role like Sonya's was a reminder for me to show compassion," shares Hakim. "Remember to have that empathy and compassion because we do not know their story and what they are going through," she adds.
However, an intense role as that of Sonya's did personally affect Hakim. "I think how things end for my character where she tries to take her destiny back into her hands instead of letting cops take her away really hit me hard," she shares. Chanchez agrees and says the ending affected him as well.
"As the title suggests, Sonya was down to whatever to survive, creating havoc with her sister and wrecking the town but all for a reason of avenging their parent's death," explains Hakim.
Hakim, who is also venturing into writing and scaling up her acting, says she looks forward to doing some superhero movies especially in the Marvel universe. While Chanchez shares that he has the "Morgan Freeman mentality, "where he just prays he can do everything in this business."