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Why Zazie Beetz Found It ‘Empowering’ To Film A Black Western Like The Harder They Fall

Jeymes Samuel’s latest film The Harder They Fall is a groundbreaking piece of pure brilliance. Not only does the Netflix original movie have a star-studded cast led by Idris Elba, a multilayered story, and a beautiful set, it also puts Blacks in the Western genre. All of these pieces couldn’t fall together better, and one of the film’s stars, Zazie Beetz, has shared what made filming a Black Western so empowering.

In this Western, outlaw Nat Love (Jonathan Majors) discovers that his enemy, Rufus Buck (Idris Elba), is being released from prison, so he reunites his gang to track Rufus down and seek revenge. Zazie Beetz plays Nat Love’s former love, Stagecoach Mary, who is a firecracker. I had the pleasure of speaking with Beetz on behalf of CinemaBlend, and she shared the following of her experience making a Black Western:

I think we talk a lot about representation in front of the camera, but we had so much also behind it as well. Our director is Black, we had Black producers and a lot of the crew was diverse. And I think that element of it was also really cool to really feel like, ‘Oh, we're all really doing this together,’ and telling a story of all of us together and also made me feel like we're not necessarily, you know, representing the Black experience as a monolith because we have all these different experiences coming together and creating sort of a blend of all of us. All these characters are so specific and we’re all bringing different things to them. And that was really cool and empowering for me, and I hope that comes across on the screen, sort of this imbuing of Black culture in this very sort of old genre. And in this way, sort of spinning the genre into something new and relevant to a wider audience.

The cast and crew of The Harder They Fall accomplished incorporating Black culture into the Western genre with flying colors. As Zazie Beetz mentioned, all of the characters in the film are very specific. They each have a unique story to tell and they all work together to inform the larger story being told. Beetz also told me that she and Jonathan Majors spent time coming up with a backstory for their characters, who are former lovers. The entirety of what happened between these two characters prior to what we see on screen is not revealed in the film, but it is clear that there is a defined history between them that informs all of the actions and conversations that we do see.

Zazie also mentioned an all-important nuance when it comes to celebrating diversity and representation which is that the talent behind the camera is just as important as the talent in front of the camera. Part of what elevates the story of The Harder They Fall is the diverse environment of the entire production.

As someone who historically hasn’t loved the Western genre, let me assure you that The Harder They Fall is excellent from start to finish. This one grips you from the start and carries you all the way through with lots of surprises, drama and laughs along the way. The Harder They Fall is now playing in theaters and begins streaming on Netflix November 3rd.

Samantha LaBat

Obsessed with Hamilton and most things Disney. Gets too attached to TV show characters. Loves a good thriller, but will only tolerate so much blood.