Director X and the 'Superfly' Cast Talk Filming in Atlanta

Director X and the 'Superfly' Cast Talk Filming in Atlanta

Georgia has been the #1 filming location in the world for quite some time now, thanks mostly to some generous tax incentives that have caused Hollywood productions to flood the city. Last year alone generated $9.5 billion in economic impact with $2.7 billion in direct spending. Yet despite all the filming that is going on in Atlanta, there actually haven’t been that many set here although things seem to be changing. Like last year’s Baby Driver, Superfly is one of the few recent films to both be filmed and set in the A-Town.

A remake of the classic 1972 blaxploitation film by the same name, Superfly follows the exploits of drug dealer Youngblood Priest as he attempts do the impossible and leave the game while the money is good. Director X brings his experience and style from the music video industry to the big screen with cast consisting of Trevor Jackson, Jason Mitchell, and Michael K. Williams.

Many of the story beats remain the same, but the biggest change to the film is its setting, which substitutes Atlanta for the streets of Harlem. “Atlanta really is a special place right now,” Director X told us at the premiere. “Harlem in the 70s was the epicenter of music and culture and now that’s happening here.” Audiences can still expect Superfly to pay homage to the original, of course, just with an added flair. “I wanted everything to be super fly. Every department that was the direction; the clothes, the hair, the guns, the cars, the locations. Everything had to really be big and exciting. That’s the goal and that’s what you can expect. Still, at its core, this is Superfly.”

Leading that change is Trevor Jackson who plays Youngblood Priest and Jason Mitchell who plays his best friend and partner Eddie. In preparing for the role, Mitchell explained how two things from the original influenced his performance. “I think under everything his character was underlined with sorta a loose cannon and sorta a little bit of jealousy,” says Mitchell. “So as long as I kept those two things in essence I feel like I could give all of me. So what you see up there is more of who I am at home on a daily basis. I just added a little Joe Pesci in there to make it spicy.”

Superfly is the first production Mitchell, a New Orleans native, has filmed in Atlanta, but he has already fallen in love with the city. “Most of the time all you hear is people saying, ‘I’m gonna pack my shit and I’m gonna move to the A.’ It’s been good because I always had that as a dream, and now to come here and do something that’s sorta dream-like. Who ever pictures that you’re going to be in Superfly with Joel Silver? That’s just not something I had in my mind at the beginning of my career. And it’s been such a reward.”

“I won’t be leaving Atlanta,” he says happily as he reveals that he already bought a house here in the city.

Of course you can’t film in Atlanta these days without hiring locally. Brian F. Durkin, who plays a corrupt detective opposite Jennifer Morrison, originally left Atlanta in 2001 to move to Los Angeles but found himself moving back after the industry had boomed. “I moved back in ‘09; to see the steady shift in how much work we’re getting here it’s been nice to watch,” explains Durkin. “It all kinda came in at a perfect time for the call when Superfly came.”

As for what he brings to Officer Turk Franklin? “I think the southern element. The original takes place in Harlem, and I think they needed a cop that could sell the southern aspect. There’s an element to playing a cop. You got to make your movements real, make it look like you’ve been through that training and being cognizant of your surroundings and where your arms are and when you drew the gun. There’s a lot to it, and I like that challenge.”

The entire Superfly production has been quite the challenge as well. Principle photography only begun in January and here were are, six months later and the film is already in theaters. “This is what all the training is for when they say smooth seas don’t make experienced sailors,” Director X says about the hurried production. "These were not smooth seas. But this is the work that had to be done. We had a crew full of professionals. Atlanta has amazing crews. The film industry has really come up so it allows us to pull something like this off.”

Matt Rodriguez
Interview by Matt Rodriguez
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