Sorry to Bother You Q&A with Boots Riley and Cast

Lakeith Stanfield in Sorry to Bother You

Images courtesy of IMDB Sorry to Bother You

Alright, it’s killin’ me. If you haven’t seen Sorry to Bother You, you need new friends. Maybe you need a new social media algorithm and setup (Chronological newsfeeds anyone???). Perhaps though, you just have circles who didn’t know what to think about Sorry to Bother You. This is all in jest, but honestly, get yourself to a theater.

Be different. A-B-C, 1-2-3, easily guessed plots and attention-losing subplots overpower the box offices. Be a little more bold in your choices, and try something you haven’t tried. I believe in you. I really do.

What am I talking about? Check out the trailer.

Ok, ok, ok. So maybe this is not your average movie. That’s the point. You may have watched that trailer and silently muttered, “What on God’s good Earth was tha-” STOP. Wait. The more questions you ask, the less answers you’ll get from anyone who’s seen it. So go see it.

Here’s what I’ll say, it breaks boundaries. It is fresh. It is perfectly timed after the success of Black Panther, and it will help usher a new wave of film. Black directors, writers, and actors are seeing an increase in box office and critical success, and I hope this trend continues until we see more equality in representation and accolades.

For all who want to know more about the background of the movie, and for anyone who’s already seen it, I’ve got a little insider Q&A for you. And by insider, I mean a Q&A at the Cinerama Dome at Arclight in Hollywood with a bunch of people who bought tickets like Schroeder and I did.

Questions have been paraphrased, and I will only use first names after the first comment of each panel member.

Without any further ado, enjoy the Q&A!

Terry Crews: Y’all ain’t ready.

Q: Thank you all for coming out! Who do we have here, Terry Crews, Patton Oswalt, the talented Lakeith Stanfield, and of course the writer and director Boots Riley. Welcome gentleman. Let’s start with how everyone got attached to Sorry to Bother You.

Lakeith Stanfield: I met Boots at Sundance. We got talkin’, became friends, and when he said he had a project he thought I’d like, it got serious. I would say after a read, we really matched up on the script. I play Cassius Green, the main character in Sorry to Bother You.

Boots Riley: Lakeith Stanfield had this look of vulnerability that lots of actors are missing in their craft. He takes. The role is his. It becomes who he is.

Terry: I got to page 10 of the script and knew I wanted to be a part of it. I’d rather be the small role in an iconic movie than the lead in a film going nowhere. I play Cassius’ uncle Sergio.

Patton Oswalt: I don’t know HOW I got the part. It must have just been how Boots liked that I said the ‘h’ in ‘white.’ That must be it. What I really liked in the script was the fact that Boots nailed scale. That’s what most Indie movies are missing, scale.

Q: Sorry to Bother You was shot the movie in Oakland, right? And why Oakland?

Boots: Yes, Oakland. We had 65 locations scouted out, but finished with 61 locations for filming in 28 days. I grew up in Oakland and envisioned locations around the city while I was writing the script. This movie is SO Oakland. Lots of the locations let us film there for free. The more specific you get, the more personal it is, the more universal it is.

Q: That must have been great to be back in your hometown and see some of Oakland’s residents in the film.

Boots: Everybody in Oakland is in the movie! They were dedicated too, lots of people came around to be extras. Lots of artists collaborated to make it right. There’s no artistic industry in Oakland, so not many people are looking at doing something just for a short time like they would in LA. Everyone is doing it, they’re in it.

Boots Riley on set of Sorry to Bother You.
Everything in this movie points to the creative genius and risky moves of Boots Riley. And we’re glad.

Q: Patton, you’re the ‘white voice’ of Omari Hardwick’s character. Talk a little about how that was accomplished.

Patton: It was a process! We used ADR (Automatic Dialogue Looping) where the actor would be recorded normally saying their lines and then the voice actors would lip sync to the film.

Q: What about Cassius’ love interest, how was Tessa Thompson cast as Detroit?

Boots: It wasn’t an audition process. I think it was more of a chemistry read to get the pairing right.

Lakeith: I think we tested her role with every black woman in Hollywood. I don’t know if I can say this…(Boots starts laughing), f*ck it. I got to kiss Megan Good. Tessa is beyond words though.

Tessa Thompson and Lakeith Stanfield in Sorry to Bother You
Tessa, you are beyond words.

Q: I can’t see anyone else playing Detroit now. Boots, what were some of the underlying themes of Sorry to Bother You?

Boots: We wanted to cover big issues in a relatable environment. Capitalism, race, social injustice, all through the world of telemarketing.

Terry: This movie is so powerful because of how real it is. I grew up in Flint, Michigan and saw the same themes in real life, man. Men would trade everything to work in the factory. They would hear about benefits and security for life. Then, they’d put in 10 or more years in there only to find out it was a lie. This movie was the realest, it was emotional, and even though I played a small character I felt so fulfilled.

Terry Crews in Sorry to Bother You (2018)
Terry, your larger-than-life personality makes any small character a big enough character. Keep being you and we’ll keep loving everything you do.

Boots: See, this is why we got Terry. You ask him a question and he gives you a motivational speech. I swear, we sat down at a coffee shop to talk about the part, and the dude gave me his life story like that. That’s some inspirational shit right there.

Q: When did Sorry to Bother You begin?

Boots: I wrote the first draft of the script in 2011 and 2012. We started shooting June 2017. For seven years, they told me ‘We’ll start shooting in three months.’ I just kept at it until we got it made.

Q: Did you have some help along the way? What happened between 2011 to 2017?

Boots: Definitely at the Sundance writers and directors lab. That was vital in developing the script. The story has been the same, the arc, but the structure and script changed multiple times since 2011. I will say this though, in the labs, these masters of their craft are sitting there arguing over your script. It hit me, ‘Nobody knows what f*ck they’re doing.’ Hollywood is a bunch of opinions and people trying to tell you what they think will work but nobody knows. Things can work but don’t always work, some things might work, and some might not in the future.

Q: What kind of changes did the writer’s lab and others help you make?

Boots: I was in Berlin with an early version of the script with a director from Brazil, and he gave it a read. He liked Cassius, and that was the problem because this dude hated everyone. He told me that the character had to be a pinball, bouncing around and affecting other characters. I had to give Cassius his own agency. I had to take away his innocence. In those changes I brought the character of Cassius Green to a mature and complete place. I knew that if someone was going to fuck up my movie, it should be me.

Q: What was the hardest part of getting Sorry to Bother You made?

Boots: Everyone asked the same question. ‘What movie that’s made a bunch of money is like this?’ How do you get people to invest in something that’s not proven? There’s a financial risk in doing something new. They say Indie movies take more risks, but I think they just have other cliches. Like, afternoon lunch cafe dates, break ups on couches, stuff like that. That shit doesn’t happen in real life.

Patton: Look at the 90’s indie movie cliches, there’s only a few of them. A hitman on his last job. ‘Oh my god, we ripped off the mob!’ And my favorite, ‘What do we do with this dead body?’

Q: So how did it get funded?

Boots: Funded? Well, Forest Whitaker’s production company assistant didn’t show people the scripts since they had some hits. And I’m glad none of em had to read it, or else it wouldn’t have been made.

Q: That’s about it for time, any last comments?

Lakeith: Just, believe in your shit and you can do it. It’s hard, but do this!

Poster for Sorry to Bother You

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