“Detroit” Actors Describe How It Felt To Be Racist on The Big Screen

Detroit is a rough movie to watch, but I can only imagine how rough it was acting out some of those gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, terrifying scenes. Though the film, helmed by Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow, is about a story that takes place under the cover of the Detroit Rebellion of ’67, a little known incident at the Algiers Hotel resulted in the brutal deaths of three young men; Carl Cooper, Aubrey Pollard and Fred Temple, a member of the soon to be signed Motown group The Dramatics.

Detroit Police Officers Ronald August and Robert Paille later admitted to two of the three murders. Though Cooper’s death was dramatized in the film, no one ever admitted responsibility for it.  

Over the weekend, the Shadow League sat amid a throng of elite newshounds at the Foundation Hotel in Detroit, Michigan for a roundtable discussion with most of the cast from the film.

Several of us were still reeling from the bloody carnage that flickered on the silver screen for over two hours. Actor Ben O’Toole played the role of Officer Flynn while Will Poulter played officer Krauss. Though the film is said to be based on a true story, the actual names of the officers involved where not used and the officer Krauss character was actually an amalgamation of several policemen.

Difficult to stomach and maddening to watch, the performances turned in by O’Toole and Poulter were so amazing and convincing, that I felt the my pulse pick up ever so slightly when the cast was wheeled out. Poulter and O’Toole were mere feet away, dressed in nice threads and speaking in their Australian and English accents, respectively. But I could still see their characters’ exploits, hate and vitriol burned into the back of my eyelids.

DETROIT | Official Trailer 2

From the Academy Award winning director of THE HURT LOCKER and ZERO DARK THIRTY, DETROIT tells the gripping story of one of the darkest moments during the civil unrest that rocked Detroit in the summer of ’67.

It was inevitable that someone would ask the two guys who played the “dirty” cops about that experience.

“The big thing was having an open channel of communications on set creating a safety net between everybody,” said O’Toole. “Kathryn and Mark put together a great ensemble so everybody really felt safe emotionally, psychologically and physically as well. We were also working in an environment where there was no judgement, so we could go to places we had to go to.”

“At the end of the day, the responsibility was to be unapologetic and to play these characters who are unapologetic in an unapologetic way,” he continued. “But it was an ugly place to exist in for a while.”

The officer Krauss character played by Poulter was the ringleader behind most of his unit’s stupid ideas. But the actor himself expressed humility, understanding and exuded a genuine belief that the camaraderie and chemistry among cast mates is really what made the film so hard-hitting from a dramatic point of view.

“I would echo what Ben said in the sense that there is an argument for wanting to keep us apart from one another in order to create distance for the sake of capturing something that’s real and authentic onscreen,” said Poulter.  “But the conclusion we eventually came to was to perfect everything on set by establishing strong relationships, identifying with each other through respect so that we could create the antithesis onset and go through those extremes.”

“It was kind of a double-edged sword though because it makes (portraying) violence, aggression and acting with hatred against someone you love and respect difficult at times,” he continued. “But I’m so glad that we can all look back on this process and be really proud of the product that we all produced and say that we did it as a team.”