Jonathan Majors and Zazie Beetz are electric on-screen opposite each other in Netflix’s Black Western film, The Harder They Fall.
Shadow and Act spoke to the duo recently, along with their co-stars Regina King and Idris Elba and director Jeymes Samuel, about bringing the film to life.
For Majors, a Texas native, his connection to the cowboys and the West gave him even more of a reason to take on the role of Nat Love, which he hoped would challenge him.
He told us, “I was looking for a real story to tell…something that’s moving…something that would challenge me as an artist, and the script came across. And it just so happens that I’m from the Southwest and understand some of that occupational culture of what it is to be a farmer or a cowboy or to deal with livestock. I understood that a little bit just growing up, just because of what my grandfolks did. But then there’s the story element of it; that’s what pulled me in.”
Beetz spoke on how the film had a fresh perspective, which was combined with a history that we haven’t seen before on-screen.
She explained, “It felt very fresh, in terms of how music was integrated into it, in terms of how the story was being told…obviously in terms of the casting choices and the approach in using historical names for the different characters, essentially proving to people like, ‘these people were real,” even in the context of a fictional space. You can’t say that Black people weren’t there, because we were. I think people forget, or just don’t even realize [it], because it just wasn’t really portrayed in our media and in our films. I was really interested in exploring and deconstructing what we think of as Spaghetti Western and making a fresh new version of it.”
Majors also pointed to the genre mashup that the film presents as a takeaway point.
“You’ll be highly entertained,” he said. You’ll feel a lot. You’ll laugh a lot. It’s like watching a football game [laughs]. At some point, you’ll be rooting for one team or the other, and hopefully, you’re doing that with other people around you. So, now you’re a community. We’re a community, [and] if you watch it in the cinema, which I hope you do, or if you’re just sitting at the crib with your boo, or whatever…just kicking it [laughs] — you’re all there. And it is something that’s really going to unite so many genres and so many niche walks of life.”
Beetz added, “I could see people being skeptical about the validity of an all-Black cowboy film. And I would love to just take a baseball bat to that and be like, ‘This is valid, and this could have been a reality.’ All-Black towns existed. And while, yes, the story is fictional, and all these characters living at the same time is fictional…all of that isn’t real, but these names are real. And, I would love for people to continue saying their names.”
Watch the full interviews below: