Topher Grace is portraying one of the most well-known names in race history, but how did Spike Lee get him to do it?
On Friday, Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman is set to hit theaters and it is going to take a hard look at how blurred the racial lines were back in the ’70s. In the film, Topher Grace (That ’70s Show) is taking on the role of David Duke who is a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Of course, Grace wanted to put his all into the part and play Duke as accurately as possible, but it took a bit of convincing to get him to actually say the “N-word.”
In a movie that is focused on race and the racial wars that took place many years ago, there is going to be some very strong language. For it to be historically accurate, there will be racial slurs and derogatory comments thrown about, but that’s how the past truly was.
In BlacKkKlansman, the story is told of Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), a black police officer who was able to make his way into the KKK by acting as a white person. It is quite a strange tale, but one that is completely true, and Grace is thrilled to be a part of bringing this story to life in the current day.
The only problem that he had with taking the part of David Duke is that Grace had to tackle a script with a lot of strong language that didn’t make him very comfortable.
According to NOLA, Grace said that he would not have played David Duke if it was going to be in some made-for-TV movie. No, he said that he read the script and that there was only one person that he would “feel safe playing this role for,” and that’s Spike Lee.
Aside from being a part that has a lot of controversy behind it, Grace admits that he wasn’t comfortable with some of the words in the script. He had never once said the “N-word” in his life, but as reported by BET, Spike Lee was able to convince him that it was alright to say what needed to be said.
“It was the first time I’ve said it, period. The night before I went to read for Spike—no one thought I was right to play the role—so I was happy to go in and kind of do a proof of concept and show Spike I think I can be that guy. So I’m alone in my office rehearsing the lines alone and I was swallowing the [bad] words. Wasn’t just the N-word, there were other words. The next day when I went in to see Spike I had a speech prepared where I said, ‘I was uncomfortable with this dialogue.’ But he immediately went to work on me and made me feel so comfortable that I got the role.”
Spike Lee told Topher Grace that he just needed to “go ahead” and it would be alright. He referenced how John Turturro was nervous about his character in Do The Right Thing back in 1989. Spike told him that he believes the audience is always smart enough to know that they are playing a part, and “that’s not them.”
BlacKkKlansman may honestly appear quite humorous by the way it is presented in trailers and TV spots. There will be funny moments in it, but as evidenced by the nervousness of Topher Grace with the script, it’s also a very serious matter. Spike Lee has a great way of presenting highly important times in history and bringing them to life again on the big screen. With BlacKkKlansman, he is doing it in a way where the cast realize some strong words are needed to get the point across.
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