‘The Hate U Give’s Russell Hornsby Raves Over Young Cast: They Have A ‘Deep Level Of Talent’

He’s not wrong! Russell plays Starr’s dad in ‘The Hate U Give,’ and most of his intense, emotional scenes were shot with teen actors. He opened up to HL exclusively about the dynamic on set!

In just two hours, The Hate U Give manages to pack an emotional punch that audiences won’t ever forget. Considering how young most of the cast members are — including Amandla Stenberg, 19, KJ Apa, 21, and Sabrina Carpenter, 19 — the back to back (to back) emotional scenes are especially impressive. Russell Hornsby, 44, spent a ton of time with the film’s teenage cast members as the main character Starr’s dad, Maverick, and he was very impressed by their skill sets. “They have a deep level of talent, but also a deep level of maturity, and they understood what the moment was about,” the actor told Hollywoodlife.com EXCLUSIVELY. “There are some times where it is better to be quick to listen, not to speak, and they took that to heart.”

“It was almost like what was happening in front of the camera was happening behind the camera,” he added. “Regina Hall and I were the matriarch and patriarch and they were our children. Whatever we were imparting to them, they were taking it.” Sounds like an amazing experience for everybody involved! But while the cast members were all aware of the stakes involved in bringing this story of police brutality to life, Russell admitted they still enjoyed their time on set. “We didn’t let it weigh us down,” he said, describing the mood as “very lively and joyful with a lot of goodness, a lot of singing and just having fun.”

With so many tough scenes, we love that The Hate U Give set maintained this balance. The movie was based on a book of the same name by Angie Thomas, which was written after Oscar Grant‘s murder by a white cop in 2009. And with source material like that, it’s no surprise that the two hour film is packed to the brim with deep conversations and emotional moments. To watch that brought to life by young adults in Hollywood is amazing — but we can’t forget about the incredible performance Russell himself gave as Maverick!

A fiercely loyal character who will do anything for his family, Maverick spent some of Starr’s childhood in prison for gang activity. Because he didn’t commit the crime he was jailed for, the King Lords let him leave their gang when he was released and he opened up a grocery store instead. Determined to give his three children a better life, but also make sure they stayed close to their roots, Maverick helped Starr stay fierce and brave when she was the only witness to her best friend’s murder by a cop. So how did Russell prepare for this important role?

“I took a month away from my family and approached it like I used to do theater,” he revealed. “I had to have as much time with the character so I could understand what his original thoughts were. How does he talk? What did he think about when he was in prison? How did he live? Writing a back story so the character is deeply layered and deeply drawn. You can put the character in any situation and all that you’ll get is the pure Maverick and not a composite.” Wow! Russell put so much effort into making this role the best he could be — and it showed.

The Hate U Give was released in select theaters on Oct. 5, but will be expanding to more on Friday, Oct. 13 with a full release a week later. At that point, there won’t be any excuses for missing this incredible movie!

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