Amazon’s Emergency Filmmakers And Cast Talk Avoiding College Comedy Tropes And Depicting Positive Friendships Between Men Of Color

Emergency takes what you expect from famous college movies and flips those beats on their head. In the early moments of the film, we imagine we’ll join best friends Sean (RJ Cyler) and Kunle (Donald Elise Watkins) to go on an epic frat party tour they have been planning ahead of graduation, until they are faced with the question of calling the police when they find a girl passed out in their living room. Along the wild ride of the comedy, there were a few things the rising filmmakers intended to highlight with its core friendships. 

Emergency originally premiered at Sundance early this year to rave reviews, and the independent film was picked up to be distributed by Amazon Studios. The movie helmed by Carey Williams and written by KD Dávila, both new filmmakers, adapted Emergency from their award-winning 2018 short of the same name. Now that it’s a full-fledged movie, Williams spoke to CinemaBlend about what excited him about returning to the storyline for the film with these words (also in the video above): 

I was very happy to add more of the complexity of [Sean and Kunle’s] friendship. We touched on that a little bit in the short with like them having differences of opinion, but being able to show in the feature where they start and then where they end up in this catharsis where they've been pulled apart in this night and then they come back together really, really spoke to me. And I'm very happy to be able to show that to audiences because I feel like what we are showing with young men of color is not something they get to see very often. So, that was what I'm most proud of.

In the movie, Sean and Kunle are each nearly polar opposites, with Sean being a more laid back stoner kid, whereas Kunle is razor-focused on his school work and following the rules. The friendship is beautifully fleshed out and authentic, which brings a refreshing quality to the film. When speaking to Emergency, KD Dávila shared her own motivations as the film’s writer: 

You see tropes a lot in college comedies of “the nerd”, “the cool one” and “the dork”. And I wanted to show that these guys are more complex than the trope that they fall into. For example, Carlos, you look at him and he's like the stoner video game player. And then spoiler, you find out like he's literally a rocket scientist. His major is rocket science, and he's very compassionate and like, you can be all these different things. You can be more complex. All of them are smart. Sean is avoiding his thesis, but like who hasn't avoided doing a paper in a college, they're all smart. And that was important to me just to show that.

When Williams previously spoke to CinemaBlend’s podcast ReelBlend about the roots of Emergency, he shared that Dávila wrote the film as a response to her own experiences as a Latina woman, alongside her family and being treated differently throughout her life. According to Williams, the writer had someone she knew who dealt with a similar situation to the film, but she expanded the idea into the movie, which is in select theaters now and will be available to stream with an Amazon Prime subscription this Friday, May 27.

When we spoke to the film’s leads about the friendship at the center of Emergency, Donald Elise Watkins shared his thoughts on what the movie says about friendship through the lens of Sean and Kunle. As he said:  

The love of these guys, not just Sean [and Kunle], but Carlos and everyone else – the love that comes between these friends and the extent of what you will do to make sure that the person that you care about stays safe. Clearly, their life experiences teach them that this situation is dangerous or not life threatening at all. And then being able to figure out what perspective you kind of wanna go through and then kind of see where it goes from there.

RJ Cyler, who you may remember from Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, 2017’s Power Rangers movie and most recently as part of the cast of Netflix’s The Harder They Fall, echoed some of Watkins statements about the themes of Emergency. In Cyler’s words: 

I would just say to value your friends so much more than you would on a day to day. I feel like Sean is not going to take Kunle for granted after hearing how he almost lost him the same way when it comes to Kunle to Sean… And just the appreciation of each other and also just us having love between each other as young Black chocolatey kings.

Check out CinemaBlend’s review of Emergency ahead of checking out the film as well, which is not only a great college comedy with a refreshing approach, but a movie that depicts positive friendships between men of color and discusses issues of systematic racism. 

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.