For actor Will Poulter, filming Detroit, due out in select theaters on Friday, has to have been one of the toughest things he’s done in his career.
Philip Krauss, the character that Poulter plays, was the racist police offer who led his fellow cops into playing a “death game” with regards to interrogating the guests at the Algiers Motel. The character was created for the film to reflect what the behavior of the police officers implicated in the events based on the testimony from those involved.
The British actor didn’t feel anything for the character he was playing on screen.
“I couldn’t relate to him at all,” Poulter says of portraying Krauss. “I couldn’t find a parallel. It was all about understanding the negative, ill-informed thought structure that characterizes such racist behavior. I knew very little about American history and even less about African-American history and had to do some research. Still, it was difficult trying to embrace the kind of methodology that leads to the dehumanization of African-Americans, and to be very honest about it, the role that white people have in promoting that kind of system.”
Playing a character who brutalized these people got to be too much for Poulter and I can’t blame him for that.
“There was a moment on the set when Will broke down crying,” says Algee Smith, who plays Larry Reed. “He looked
at Kathryn and asked ‘how many more times do we have to do this scene because it’s hurting me.’ And that made the rest of us pretty much fall apart. I tried to give him a hug but then I just broke down with him. And I thought, if somebody can feel all that pain and emotion just acting, how much more painful must it have been in real life?”
Director Kathryn Bigelow wasn’t blind to the emotional toll on the cast.
“I was very aware of the emotional state of the cast, the toll on Will was especially great,” says Bigelow.
The director was sensitive to Poulter so they “wrapped the scene and moved on.”
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow from a screenplay by Mark Boal, Detroit stars John Boyega, Will Poulter, Algee Smith, Jason Mitchell, Jacob Lattimore, Hannah Murray, Kaitlyn Dever, with John Krasinski and Anthony Mackie.
Annapurna Pictures, in their first outing as a distributor, will open Detroit in select cities on July 28, 2017.