For Paula Patton, producer and star of the new suspense thriller Traffik, gender-bending isn’t off the table when it comes to her dream role. The actress reveals that, as unconventional as it would be, she would love to play star athlete Tiger Woods in a biopic. She explains, “I don’t see why a woman can’t play a man and I think that he’s an interesting character. Back when he was in his prime, obviously he had his demons. He was a conflicted person. He was great at some things and yet he had these flaws. He must have had to put on quite a facade and was probably hiding a lot of pain. Characters like that are very interesting to play.”

Though she is also multiracial like the sports legend, that part of her identity means something different to her than it apparently does for Woods. “Well, that’s where we part ways, I guess,” she says. “I’ve always identified as being black. Period.” Pushed to consider her identity in the context of the zeitgeist, she did allow that, “Yes, my mind is more open because we live in a more gender fluid, sexually-fluid time, so I am open to considering, why should I deny all the things that I am (including my racial identity). I am questioning a lot of things right now so my mind is open to that. Maybe, maybe.”

Traffik also stars Omar Epps, Laz Alonso and Roselyn Sanchez. In the film, the characters are all close friends. “The truth is, we did have a lot of fun.” Patton says, “When you are working with such intense subject matter like what we were doing, you want to laugh as much as possible and enjoy each other’s company. We had a blast. Omar and I running through the forest at night, we felt like two little kids!”

Roselyn Sanchez, Paula Patton, Laz Alonso and Omar Epps star in Traffik Photo: Scott Everett White
Roselyn Sanchez, Paula Patton, Laz Alonso and Omar Epps star in Traffik
Photo: Scott Everett White

Patton not only stars in Traffik, she is one of the producers. “A friend of mine knew I wanted to produce a movie and I had my own projects, but because of the storyline and subject matter, he thought it would interest me.” She met with the writer and director of Traffik, Deon Taylor and was sold on it soon after. Taylor, Patton recalls persuaded her with his abundance of enthusiasm and energy. “It was so exciting collaborating with him and we became instant friends. It was a lot of fun working with him.” Although being a producer is something she wanted to do for a long time, Patton admits she was very aware of the added pressures. “Without question. It comes with more responsibility and you feel the weight when you’re working, but now that the movie is out, I don’t have that feeling anymore. I did the best I could and what will be, will be. You gotta just enjoy your life,” she says. 

Patton plays Brea, a journalist at a crisis point in her career and crucial point in her personal life. About to go off on a romantic weekend with her boyfriend in beautiful northern California, Brea stumbles onto the biggest story and the most dangerous situation of her life. The character is forced to fight for her ideals, her life and her friends. Patton says, “Brea is very close to my heart. I’ve been through a lot and I’m in this very self-reflective place, one that’s about growth, for the last two years. With Brea, as much as you are playing somebody else, it’s still your flesh and blood inhabiting a character. I took with me all my experiences and I love Brea for all her flaws.” Although it’s clear Taylor wanted to make a decidedly entertaining film, at the center is the serious issue of sex trafficking. Patton admits that though prior to reading the script, she knew a bit about the subject, the scope of it eluded her. “It was not a shock but I definitely didn’t know all that was going on. I had no idea how widespread and how profitable it is.” Sacramento, where the story takes place, and where the movie was actually filmed has long been rumored to be the second in the nation, in terms of level of sex trafficking. Though that is unsubstantiated, law enforcement agrees that the problem is pervasive in that area and many others in the US.

In terms of what she hopes the audience will feel after seeing Traffik Patton says, “I hope they’re entertained. I hope they’re thoroughly entertained. I want them to forget about their bills and their problems and themselves and escape for an hour and a half. As an added bonus I hope the film opens hearts and minds and brings on a conversation about this issue of sex slavery happening in the modern day.”