Eye on Film: Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton of Loving

The Lovings are a family whose legacy echoes at the edges of history, but is essential to the core construct of the modern America. The interracial family in modern America is a built in social construct that exists out of love, and counter to the historic racial and ethnic narratives. According to a three-year-old study by the Pew Research Center, 20 percent of African Americans, 28 percent of Asian Americans, 58 percent of Native Americans and 7 percent of Whites were married to a person of an opposite race.

In 2013, 12 percent of newlyweds married someone of a different race, a record high. The study did not share information on marriages between Hispanics and non-Hispanics. The story of Richard and Mildred Loving and their fight for their right to be married as man and wife is yet another incident of how early legal skirmishes that took place in the radius of the Civil Rights Movement will continue to reverberate throughout history thanks to these tribulations.

Image title

During their fight, interracial marriage was illegal in 16 states.   

The Shadow League recently spoke with Loving co-stars Ruth Negga and Joel Edgarton. Negga, who is of Irish and Ethiopian parentage, said her prior knowledge of American culture gave her some context to place this story in.

“I’ve had an interest in American history for a while,” she said. “Simply because in Europe, in England, in Ireland, culturally our gaze is to America. We were fed on American movies, American TV, and everything was so much cooler in America. I always wanted to go to a school where I had a locker and carried my books around. I just was obsessed with that.”

Image title

“And one Christmas, the Ken Burns documentary on the Civil War was being shown,” she said. “I wanted to learn more because it had piqued my interest. What piqued my interest a lot was the racial history of this country. (And) how strange, and sad, and complicated it is and was. I remember I read about the one-drop rule. When you read about it, it’s almost laughable. The pains that the government went through to make sure, god forbid, any miscegenation occurs. Knowing full well people were already sleeping with each other. It was fact, but people didn’t want to acknowledge it. It just seemed so baffling. It was so sad, the illlegitimizing of people’s lives.”

“The Post-Civil War (Reconstruction Era), 40 Acres and a mule, the Black Codes that were actually the same as slavery,it just goes on and on and on,” Negga continued. So, I used to go down these rabbit holes. I didn’t have a lot of details because I didn’t study them, but I had a general sense of what came before them and what they might be up against.

Image title

Edgarton, who does a masterful job incorporating the speech and mannerism of Richard Loving, spoke of what he felt the most important aspect of the film was.

“I think it’s amazing,” he said. “The broad strokes of modern day culture is in any country. We learn the big things. And the big things become the big things because they are newsworthy. Newsworthiness is often marked by violence or drama. This is an incredibly dramatic situation when you break the parts down. A nine-year oppressive situation. The majority of Americans don’t know about Richard and Mildred, they know about Martin Luther King, Jr. They know about Rosa Parks. So, it’s interesting that this is not something that is more well-known. Even though this case essential to interracial marriage in this country, it’s still under the radar. “

“The beautiful part about this movie being made is it will put those names out there so that they can become a part of that timeline of Civil Rights history.”

Loving, directed by Jeff Nichols, starring Ruth Negga, Joel Edgerton, Nick Kroll and Michael Shannon, opens in New York and Los Angeles today, November 4.


Back to top