Most of our lives are the product of some sort of love story and Ava DuVernay’s Origin is a reflection of that.


The drama film is based on author Isabel Wilkerson’s making of Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, which explores racism within the United States and its parallels to India’s caste system and other global methods of racism, discrimination and injustice. 

Beyond just being a story centered around the impact of the evils that follow a racist society, Origin is also one of what often comes on the other side of grief. 

“I think that grief is an entry point into this larger story about history,” DuVernay told Blavity’s Shadow and Act. “And legacy is a beautiful, soft way to go into the film because it’s something that, unfortunately, we’ve all experienced or we will all experience that is a part of life. You lose what you love and that is really a common point between all human beings.”

“Even in the film, there are moments where people who’ve lost others congregate around that idea of loss,” she continued. “So, the idea that grief can be a through line, that grief can be a bridge between us and an idea that was always very provocative to me and that we were able to explore of these love stories in the movie.”

For Isabel, portrayed by Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor, that sentiment rings true after experiencing an unnatural amount of loss that would break a person.

“She [Wilkerson] lost so many people who were important to her in such a small amount of time, her cousin who was her best friend, her mother who was one the great loves of her life, and then, Brett, also a great love of her life, [they] essentially [propelled] her to write this book,” said Ellis-Taylor.

She continued, “I felt that for me, I was acting a love letter. I think she wrote a love letter, but I was acting a love letter and what I mean by a love letter is the memorialization of these people and that is rooted in profound grief.”


“In writing the book, it was a love letter to Brett (Jon Bernthal). There was a picture in my dressing room that I would look at every day and it was a picture of Brett and Isabel and they were somewhere, but you could tell they were having a good time and they were in love,” Ellis recalled. “That gave me my smile every day, because you would think that this is a hard thing to play. There were harder things to play, but I was driven by the love and joy that she had with this man that she cherished so much.”

For Niecy Nash-Betts, playing opposite Ellis-Taylor as her cousin Marion, was art imitating life because the Black community simply does not play when it comes to the family.

“We don’t even play about our play cousins,” Nash-Betts joked. “I mean if that’s your mom’s best friend, her kids are your cousins and that’s just the way it goes so I love that was the entry point for Aujanue and my character to connect in the film.”

As one of the people whom Isabel lost and who served an extremely significant role in her life, Nash-Betts reflected on how Marion inspired her to step up how she encourages the people around her. 

“I love that Marion was a big support to Aunjanue’s character. She was like, ‘What you said again? Now say it, make it plain. Now, say it so people can understand it. Now go  on over there and do your work….people need to hear this.’ She was such an encourager and I love that. I was like, ‘Yeah, let me call some people when I get home from set and encourage them to keep in going and to do the thing you’re called to do.’”

Origin is in select theaters now.