Stars of 'BlacKkKlansman' Reflect on One-Year Anniversary of Charlottesville

John David Washington and Topher Grace also talk about researching their roles for the true-life tale on the eve of the anniversary of the Charlottesville riots.

Spike Lee has said that his new film, BlacKkKlansman, draws direct lines from the racism in our country a half-century ago to last year's Charlottesville riots that left one dead and several injured. In fact, footage of the riots is included in the film.

Reflecting on the events of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, actor John David Washington explained, “When this happened, I was doing a lot of research for the film, a lot of late ‘60s and ‘70s research, and I was starting to get a little, not depressed, but I just felt disgusted.” Washington stars in the film as Ron Stallworth, a police officer who leads an undercover investigation of the KKK.

“I asked [my mother], ‘Do you think the times are worse then or now?’ And she said, ‘Now.’ And being one that’s lived through both, I guess I imagine what a lot of people felt like after Vietnam or after the killing of JFK, Martin Luther King — we’re just tired of it, We’re just fed up,” Washington said.

While he said he doesn’t “have the words" himself, he is “ready to follow somebody with some sense.”

“But this is the craft. I’m able to do it with this,” he said. “This is my way of trying to contribute. If we can inspire one person to actually make a change, then we’ve done our job.”

Washington’s co-star, Topher Grace, who portrays real-life KKK leader David Duke in the film, recalled seeing the film for the first time at the Cannes Film Festival. The end of the film includes actual footage from the Charlottesville riots, something that took audience members by surprise.

“When I saw it in Cannes, it was the first time I’d seen the film, when that footage came on at the end," he said. "I think the audience didn’t know at first that it was real-life footage and there was this kind of gasp.”

“It was like a horror movie where the guy calls and says, ‘The call is coming from inside the house!’” he continued. “It’s a brilliant move of Spike's.”

BlacKkKlansman hits theaters Aug. 10.