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Remember the Titans stars Wood Harris and Ryan Hurst are reflecting on the Denzel Washington-led film’s legacy 20 years after its debut, including a racist incident that occurred around the movie’s filming.
In a new interview with GQ magazine, Hurst and Harris detailed how they worked on- and offscreen to portray rivals-turned-friends Gerry Bertier and Julius Campbell in the 2000 biographical sports drama. Part of that experience included Hurst and Harris experiencing different treatment during a meeting around the film, with both actors chalking the experience up to racism.
While Hurst declined to name the person involved, he did detail the actors’ disparate interactions with the individual he only described as “this white woman.” The Walking Dead and Sons of Anarchy actor noted how her entire posture changed after Harris joined their meeting.
“[Harris] said, ‘Just watch how she treats you, watch how she treats me,'” Hurst recalled. “We went in there, I sat down and I was talking with her and she was on her elbows leaning close to me. Then Wood walked over and she moved her chair back a little, leaned back, crossed her legs, crossed her arms, and Wood looked over at me and nodded at me.”
The actor counted the interaction among several experiences working on the Boaz Yakin-directed film that were eye-opening for him. “It just showed me, it doesn’t matter how socially aware [you are]. Experientially, as a white man, you’re born to be fucking ignorant,” he told GQ.
Hurst recounted the meeting after he and Harris were asked how the film’s messages about sports, civil rights and protest resonate and relate to the current and ongoing Black Lives Matter protests in professional sports. Written by Gregory Allen Howard, Remember the Titans recounts the true story of Black coach Herman Boone (played by Denzel Washington) and his attempt to integrate an Alexandria, Virginia, high school football team in 1971. Harris and Hurst play the team’s Black and white captains, who go from rivals to lifelong friends.
Both Harris and Hurst threw their support behind the calls for racial justice from professional athletes, with Hurst stating that he was in “full support of every sport that has been protesting in the way they have.”
“Sports really puts people together,” said Harris, adding that the optics and language around protesting have shifted, and that he believes words like “protest” and “racist” don’t have the same weight as they once did. He also noted that technology has changed how we can react and relate to incidences of racism.
“My mother grew up in that era where she couldn’t go to a restaurant, but I can’t feel that. Sometimes white people might understand something but not garner a feeling for it. Sometimes, the feeling is what makes you really get it,” he told the magazine. “That’s why George Floyd was so paralyzing for everyone to a certain degree. We all saw it like a snuff film, and we didn’t know we were going to see a snuff film. There was an era where you wouldn’t see somebody dying online. Now we can comfortably watch an officer put a knee on a person. It’s showing you the degree of darkness that we’ve been ignoring.”
Harris — whose credits also include The Wire, Empire and Blade Runner 2049 — shared that class also plays a role, and that “even people like me” can ignore the role racism plays in Americans’ lives “when we get to a certain class.”
“The business of sports is racist because we live in America, where the place is pretty much founded on racist principles,” Harris said. “If I’m a white guy, I can just watch Monday Night Football. I don’t have to worry about a guy taking a knee for a cause of a culture that I’m not in. Those are the things that white people don’t have to think about.”
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