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‘This Had an Urgency to It’: ‘American Skin’ Stars Omari Hardwick and Theo Rossi Discuss the Film’s Release Following the Attacks on Capitol Hill

Nate Parker is making his return to the film world as both an actor and director in a drama titled “American Skin,” a tale about race and injustice which presents itself like a event ripped from the headlines.

The film tells the story of Marine veteran Lincoln “Lin” Jefferson, played by Parker, who, after witnessing what he believes to be the subsequently unpunished murder of his 14-year-old son by a white police officer, executes a series of actions he hopes will finally bring about justice for his late son. 

(Left photo) Nate Parker (left), Omari Hardwick (right); (right photo) Parker with Theo Rossi. (Photos: Paras Griffin/Getty Images, Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)

Having debuted at the Venice Film Festival in 2019, “America Skin” is an audacious move by Parker, whose previous film attempts were overshadowed by scandal and backlash. However, as Omari Hardwick told Atlanta Black Star, and his cast mate Theo Rossi supported, “This is one of those movies where there’s not a lot of wait for timing. This was like urgent.”

Hardwick added, “This had an urgency to it. Theo and I’ve spoken about it prior, it being that of a timeless nature. You know, it’s timeless. And because of that, it’s priceless in terms of the conversation being had.” 

Both actors expressed the idea that the film and their roles in it were “necessary” and maintained that they had a “duty” as artists to be part of the project despite any critic’s personal antipathy toward its lead star.  

The former “Power” star said he was compelled to join the project by the quality of Parker’s screenplay. “Nate wrote it so intricately and gave everyone a conversation,” Hardwick said. “That was good for me. I was in.”

“Very rarely do you get involved with a piece that shows everyone speaking, everyone,” Rossi chimed in. “You get things when people speak. Right. But what I’m saying is that in such volatile subjects, in things that people are so tender around, they don’t want to talk about it all because then everybody’s usually yelling. This is a town hall in a film.” 

Some might say recent political events, more specifically the insurrection that took place at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, makes the timing of “American Skin’s” release especially appropriate, but Hardwick disagreed. The star admitted that he’s not expecting everyone to run out to see the film, especially now, given what transpired last week in Washington. “But if we know that the events of the 6th of January happened in 2020, wouldn’t it have been incumbent upon us to tell the story?” he questioned. “When we signed up for Nate, we had to tell the story because look what’s happening five days ago.”

(From left) Director Nate Parker, Spike Lee and Theo Rossi walk the red carpet ahead of the “American Skin” screening during the 76th Venice Film Festival at Sala Giardino on Sept. 1, 2019, in Venice, Italy. (Photo: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)

Instead, the actors stressed the benefits of having more conversations and town hall meetings, similar to the one depicted in the film, and other solutions that could begin to chip away at a longstanding social issue in this country.

“We all know from history that people have shot up churches.There is no thing that somebody is going to look at and go, ‘Oh, that could incite, that could this.’ No. It could start a conversation,” Rossi expressed. “We need to start having people talk, not into the void [social media postings] not into something that doesn’t talk back. Into rooms with people together, looking at each other, having conversations. But it all starts with the words, and we’re just not doing that. So we have to hope that this [“American Skin”] sparks that in any way.”

“American Skin” was released nationwide on Friday, Jan. 15. It stars Nate Parker, Omari Hardwick, Theo Rossi, Sierra Capri, Beau Knapp, Shane Paul McGhie, Nicole Randall Johnson, and Mo McRae. Hollywood veteran Spike Lee is also a producer of the film.

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