/Interview by Alika Gasimova/
We talked with Raul Perez, Thai Edwards, Marcelle Baber, Paul Logan, and Dustin Harnish about the film ‘The Ice Cream Stop’. The main topic of the interview was racism and the reasons which lead to this phenomenon. Is it the police who we are to blame for the George Floyd incident? Is it classism that leads to racism or is it a mentality problem? How can we end hate? — read in this interview.
Check out the video version of the interview https://youtu.be/2tUCjj8UkzY
Tell me about the challenges you met during the filming process
Marcelle Baber: I would say finding the right locations to be able to make the storyline so authentic that it can actually convey what we really wanted to convey to the public was the challenge. That would have been the first thing I noticed.
Paul Logan: From the moment that I read the script it was perfect. It didn’t need any changes. The subject matter was incredible. The writing was perfect for that subject matter. It had such a wide variety of emotional range that each character was going to bring to the table that it just jumped off the page. It is a very important topic right now, it is very current and very relevant, and very real.
Raul Perez: The conflict was the subject. First of all, when I wrote it didn’t seem real. When I watched it on set it was tough to direct it while knowing this stuff really happens. I haven’t had the experience as another black man against the law. I had my own challenges as a Latino but not to the extent of what we see in today’s society. I told the guys when I was editing it in post-production — it was hard to watch because it is real.
Did you read the script separately or together?
Dustin Harnish: We had the group readings. We had reworked that script 5 or maybe 7 times over the span of three months. Marcelle Baber wrote an amazing story that was completely justifying in its own element at the time that he did. And because he and Raul and Thai wanted to make this thing as accurate as possible they went ahead and we sat together on multiple occasions and consulted with one another on how to rework the language and how to make it sound as real as possible where these two and three guys are interacting the way that usually would be in real life. So that for the viewer it felt as real and as genuine as these incidents are. We had to get the words right, we had to get the tempo right, we had to get the emotion correct. And that took months.
What changed from one script reading to another?
Dustin Harnish: Probably, more or less it was just dialing in the language.
Marcelle Baber: We wanted to make sure it was fluid. We didn’t want a forced storyline. We wanted everything to be fluid as if it was an actual situation going down right now that we just happened to capture on film. That was very important.
You’ve already answered this question but I will repeat it to make everything clear. Is the picture you show exaggerated or is it the fully real picture of what’s happening in America?
Paul Logan: Marty called me and spoke about a personal experience and a dream that came to him after the George Floyd incident. He got home from work late and decided to walk to the store around the corner. He grabbed a crowbar and put it in his pocket for protection because there were loose dogs in the street. On his way back home, he was stopped by the police. He explained that he had a crowbar in his pocket for protection from the dogs. They tried to give him 3 years in jail for that. From those events and a dream that Marty had, we combined the 2 and from there, The Ice Cream Stop was created.
Marcelle Baber: It was very important for us to knock down all the stereotypes that are ‘we don’t love our women’, ‘we don’t take care of our kids’, ‘we don’t work’, ‘the only way we are able to make it and be successful is only if we have some type of ball in our hands’.
Thai Edwards: What resonated with me so bad is the fact is that I was back in 2012 when I pretty much witnessed the same thing that my character witnessed. I left home one day and got caught up. And I didn’t return home for about 6-7 months and I witnessed all of these things when I was in prison. So, shooting that — just to go back to the very very first question about the challenges — production night for me was hell. It was a lot of emotion because Paul and Dustin were making me relive a lot of moments that I’ve really been trying to forget.
Marcelle Baber: If I may leave you with one more point on this topic. For me as the creator of the story here was one of my main points. I have been very vocal going to protests. And one of the things that really bothered me was how the victim is always victimized. I wanted to show a guy who is squeaky clean and who made all the right decisions and he met the same fate as everyone else that you claim it was their fault. It was very important for us to convey that.
My next question will be addressed to the actors who played policemen. You had to play violent and heartless people who are racists. How did you deal with the feelings of blame for the whole race?
Dustin Harnish: It felt like a massive responsibility because I know a lot of police officers and I have police officers in my family. They have to take accountability for what is going on. It is unacceptable what is happening in our country. It’s enough. Hate needs to end. And you probably never gonna end hate. We’re living in a free country and there always gonna be people that have their points of view.
While playing this character I felt this was something that I needed to look at because there’re men that aren’t held accountable as much as they should be. There are guys that are still out there today getting away with these crimes against humanity. So I felt it was my responsibility to tackle this thing and make it as authentic as possible to tell the story from that side of it. It was difficult for me because it was a dark role. I’d use intense language that I don’t personally use in my life and I had to have an utter feeling of hate and despair for another person because of his color. I’m not like that and I don’t know people like that. I don’t surround myself with people of that caliber. So, having to go to the other side took me a minute. And I was scared to do it. So, having that said playing this role was probably the best thing I’ve ever done in my career simply because it was the heaviest and it required the most responsibility from me and required that I go to a different place. And I had to try to empathize with that. And I had to try to rationalize with that. I had to try to justify his actions. When they’re out in the field in real life pulling people over they think they are totally justified. As an actor, you have to settle into that. You might think that these are monsters and incredibly terrible human beings. But I have to find the way into that.
Paul Logan: This to me was a very challenging role because it is the antithesis of how I was brought up and how I react to people. I had to equate this literally to playing like a child molester or Hitler, someone who is loathsome and who you detest. You had to just go there. If you didn’t commit 100% percent to something like this, especially if this is not the way you think, the audience would see right through it. So it was very challenging. After every take, I felt like I wanted to take a shower and apologize to everybody on set and to everybody who would ever see this. Again, if you don’t go there and commit to it it’s gonna be fake.
There’s the expression: ‘All happy families are alike and each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way’. What do you think about it?
Marcelle Baber: I disagree with that because I think each family has its own dynamics. What makes my family happy may not make your family happy. We are a community involvement family. I run a non-profit youth organization and have been involved in that for 21 years. I may invite you into my family and put you in those situations and you might say that this is boring. But this is what kept my family together — giving back to the community. Me personally, I would disagree with that because we are all human beings and we breathe the same air. But we’re not in cookie-cutter molds and we don’t have to live and believe the same way.
Paul Logan: I think that everything is relative and also there is no static in life. You can’t always be happy, you can’t always be sad. There are ups and downs in every family and every dynamic in any relationship. That’s what makes it interesting. It gives it comparison and being able to contrast against something. You can’t appreciate the light unless you know a little bit what darkness is and vice versa. And personally, I’m going through something with my family member that’s gone awful. You just have to appreciate happiness and hang onto it.
If coming back to the problems with police in America. What do you think causes such freedom in violence in the actions of policemen?
Marcelle Baber: I don’t think it’s a police thing, I feel that’s the personal thing.
Paul Logan: It doesn’t matter if you’re a cop or if you are a surgeon. If you are racist that’s gonna be shown through in what you do. I don’t think it is a police problem. It is the problem inside that institution that needs to be addressed. It is a mentality problem. Judge people by how they act and not how they look. Racism should be stopped in every occupation. The basis of the way these people think should be addressed. If you can change that that will change a lot of things across the board.
Marcelle Baber: Even before racism there’s classism. Classism and then those who don’t fit in that realm lead to racism. Classism doesn’t care about your color. It cares about the status. If you don’t fit that status you drop down to the racist part. Whoever is in control of classism, the people who don’t fit in that realm, go down to racism because their color of skin may resemble those in the power of classism. To make one feel better about themselves they perpetrate crimes against those who don’t look like them. First, we have to eliminate classism, and then it goes to racism.
Thai Edwards: This whole country has been run on class.
Paul Logan: I think it goes deeper than classism even. Because honestly, I’ve seen some people in the quote-unquote higher class level that are a different color than somebody, and behind closed doors or when people are talking about it it is the same racist crap. So, I kind of disagree with that to an extent.
I’m friends with Michael Strahan. He’s gotten pulled over in his car just for being African American. And when policemen got to the window and saw that this is him they asked for an autograph. So, I disagree with that. Look, what’s going on with the royal family right now. The class definitely has a separating effect but it is the character of people. Doesn’t matter how much money you have or what class you are in. It is how you are thinking and how you are brought up.
Thai Edwards: I agree.
Policemen protect justice. Is it possible to be fair to everyone? Where are the borders of justice?
Thai Edwards: Speaking as an African American man and from my experience, we don’t get the same justice that our white counterparts get. It’s been proved. We see cases when a black man does the same crime as a white counterpart and we get more time. So, the system was never built or designed for us. Never. And we’re the country that’s been built on fighting. I hate to say this but sometimes there has to be some bloodshed for the change to come. As a black man, I’m tired of seeing my people being mistreated, not being given the same opportunities. We don’t ask for a break or a handout. We just always wanted the same type of opportunities that our white counterparts have had. Justice in America isn’t the same for the black people as it is for the white people which was illustrated in the film.
Dustin Harnish: I think racism is also a cultural problem. It starts from where you come from. It starts from the mouth with the hand that feeds you. I think we are all born with the level of innocence and good and I think that you learn these problems, these ill manners throughout the course of one’s life. I think the way we can get back to society and evolve and move beyond this tumultuous stain on humanity is to use the golden rule. That is treat others as you wish to be treated yourself. Do unto others as you would do unto yourself. Empathize with others.
Paul Logan: I think that it’s gonna take time. Look at the generations. 20 years ago it was such a worse way of thinking. Racism was even more prevalent. Things are getting better but it is just not fast enough. It needs to accelerate. That is why projects like this are bringing light to people who can watch this and see that this is wrong. Racism is not genetic, it is learnt. You learn it from your family and while generations are going by there is less racism.
Marcelle Baber: Going back touching on Strahan. The fact that they pulled him over because he is black and then let him go because he is Michael Strahan is the illustration of classism. He is an entertainer and a football player and that’s why they let him go. To the point when we are talking about racism, it is a structure. It is generationally passed down. You take it 70 years ago we were still considered three-fifths of a human being. We were part of the shadow. There was no crime in killing an African American. It was no different than breaking your table. So, taking back to the 80s and 90s. Powder cocaine was considered a predominantly white drug. Rock cocaine was considered to be a black drug. Dustin and I, we can be caught with the same amount. He will get probation. And I’m gonna get 10 years automatically. Once we change the structure, then things will start to dissipate.
How do you explain why the Black lives matter protests happen so massively now?
Thai Edwards: The moment and time couldn’t be better. All of us are spiritual individuals. We believe in God. We all believe that we are probably governed by a higher power. I don’t think it was a coincidence that the whole world was shut off. So that we could see how ugly things are. We are living life and sometimes you get caught up in the runways where you don’t pay attention to something. If you are not a part of a solution then you are part of a problem.
If you decided to make a film about another big social problem what would that be about?
Marcelle Baber: I’m currently working out the outline. Just to give you a little sneak peek it is dealing with recidivism of what’s happening. I’m in the process of researching and studying because as laws change so do communities. It seems that things on the surface are getting better. But when you really dig underneath it is just being another plan perpetuated. It makes you feel that it is good but at the same time, it is not. Just the same as with the rock cocaine law and the powder cocaine law. That was another ploy to make you feel better but at the same time, it was really underhanded. I have something I am working on and it is gonna be explosive. It’s a working title but for now, it is ‘called ‘Leftovers’. We gonna delve into everything going back up to now and why are certain communities are in the shape that they are in. It is not by accident and sometimes not by choice. Although people make bad decisions, I am not excusing that. But there are also some things that go into decision-making and it is based on the knowledge that you have. Definitely, we gonna be challenging some other social issues personally as a writer.