Director Rashaad Ernesto Green Takes Us to Gun Hill Road

The filmmaker talks about his inspiration for his debut feature, Gun Hill Road, which was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and is now out on DVD.

BY Jase Peeples

March 29 2013 7:00 AM ET

Was there pressure from producers to cast an experienced actress over a trans actress?
The real pressure was time. They cautioned and warned me of the problems that may occur with working with a nonexperienced actress. I simply explained that finding the genuine article was essential to the film's success. They gave me the green light so long as we found her sooner rather than later.

After Harmony was cast, did she offer any insight from the perspective of a trans person that caused you to make any changes?
I didn't make any significant changes to the film after Harmony was cast, but I can't imagine that we would have been as successful in truthfully presenting Vanessa's struggle had we not found Harmony. I had done a fair amount of research beforehand and spoken with a number of transgender females that by the time we found Harmony, she was able to step right in and breathe life into the character.

Not being trans, were you concerned how the trans community would respond to Vanessa?
I was very concerned with presenting Vanessa's character as authentically as I possibly could, especially when writing the script. By the time production rolled around, I had armed myself with enough research, spent so much time within the trans community, made friends, asked the right questions, and presented the character of Vanessa with respect, humanity, and dignity that I no longer feared the reaction. I was confident that I had done my due diligence and her authenticity would not be called into question.

What’s next? Do you have any new projects on the horizon?
I'm currently in Portland, Ore., working on NBC's Grimm as part of NBC's directing program. I'm also writing a television series that's inspired by my family and about to break ground on my next feature script that I will produce with my brother.

Tags: film

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