With director Destin Daniel Cretton’s adaptation of Bryan Stevenson’s memoir Just Mercy opening in limited release Christmas Day, I recently sat down with Stevenson to talk about being a real-life superhero. If you’re not familiar with Stevenson’s incredible story, he studied law at Harvard University and after graduating moved to Alabama to defend people who had been convicted without proper representation. One of his first cases was Walter McMillian (played by Jamie Foxx), who was an innocent man condemned to death for the killing of an 18-year-old girl. Just Mercy also stars Brie Larson, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Rafe Spall, Rob Morgan, Karan Kendrick and Tim Blake Nelson.
During the interview, Stevenson talked about what it was like seeing the film for the first time, why it’s been such a challenge to represent the people he champions, how we have a criminal justice system that treats you better if you are rich and guilty than poor and innocent, what deleted scene he wishes ended up in the finished film, and a lot more.
Finally, if you’d like to help support the Equal Justice Initiative that Stevenson founded in 1989, click here for the website. The organization is committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the U.S., challenging racial and economic injustice, and protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society.
I know you have a lot of choices at the movie theater, but Just Mercy is one of those special films that I can’t recommend enough. Check out what he had to say in the player above and below is exactly what we talked about followed by the official synopsis.
- What was it like watching the film for the first time?
- How it’s been a challenge to do what he does for a myriad of reasons.
- How we have a criminal justice system that treats you better if you are rich and guilty than poor and innocent.
- How we have a justice system that’s unfortunately shaped by wealth.
- Why he wanted a scene with Micheal B. Jordan seeing a minor in prison to be in the film.
Here’s the Just Mercy official synopsis:
A powerful and thought-provoking true story, Just Mercy follows young lawyer Bryan Stevenson (Jordan) and his history-making battle for justice. After graduating from Harvard, Bryan had his pick of lucrative jobs. Instead, he heads to Alabama to defend those wrongly condemned or who were not afforded proper representation, with the support of local advocate Eva Ansley (Larson). One of his first, and most incendiary, cases is that of Walter McMillian (Foxx), who, in 1987, was sentenced to die for the notorious murder of an 18-year-old girl, despite a preponderance of evidence proving his innocence and the fact that the only testimony against him came from a criminal with a motive to lie. In the years that follow, Bryan becomes embroiled in a labyrinth of legal and political maneuverings and overt and unabashed racism as he fights for Walter, and others like him, with the odds—and the system—stacked against them.