‘White Boy Rick’: Richie Merritt and Bel Powley on Researching Their Real-Life Characters

     September 15, 2018

This weekend, Yann Demange’s White Boy Rick opens in theaters. The movie is based on the true story of Rick Wershe Jr. (Richie Merritt) who started out selling unlicensed firearms with his dad, Rick Sr. (Matthew McConaughey), in Detroit, but eventually became an FBI informant and a drug kingpin all before the age of 17. The film also stars Bel Powley, Rory Cochrane, RJ Cyler, Brian Tyree Henry, and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

While at TIFF last week, Scott Mantz sat down with Richie Merritt and Bel Powley, who plays Richie’s drug-addicted sister Dawn. During their conversation, they talked about the research they did on their characters, what it was like meeting Matthew McConaughey, why it was important to keep the movie honest, and the biggest thing they learned about filmmaking while working on this project.


Image via Columbia Pictures

Check out the full interview above and a list of what was discussed below.

Richie Merritt and Bel Powley:

  • The research they did to prepare for their roles.
  • What it was like meeting Matthew McConaughey for the first time.
  • Why it was important to keep the movie honest to real-life events.
  • What they learned about filmmaking from working on this project.

Here’s the official synopsis for White Boy Rick:

Set in 1980s Detroit at the height of the crack epidemic and the War on Drugs, WHITE BOY RICK is based on the moving true story of a blue-collar father and his teenage son, Rick Wershe Jr., who became an undercover police informant and later a drug dealer, before he was abandoned by his handlers and sentenced to life in prison.


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