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Colin Kaepernick is bringing his life to the screen, and on Thursday the activist and former NFL star made a rare public appearance at the Los Angeles premiere of Colin in Black and White, the limited series he co-created with Ava DuVernay.
The Netflix show, in which Kaepernick also serves as an onscreen narrator, follows his high school years and the path that led him to risk his athletic career protesting against racial injustice and police brutality.
Inside the premiere screening, held at the newly opened Academy Museum, Kaepernick expressed his gratitude to DuVernay, after he initially asked her for advice on how to get his project idea made and she immediately signed on.
“That’s where all of this started, first as a friendship and then being able to build through this process, and it’s truly a special moment to be able to build something, do something with people that you love and respect in life,” he told the crowd. He also thanked Netflix for allowing them to tell “stories in raw, real ways, and we didn’t have to filter ourselves in what we were doing,” as well as the writers for handling his personal stories with care.
And of newcomer Jaden Michael, who plays a teenage Kaepernick in the show, the athlete admitted, “It was a little eerie watching him because he picked up on all my mannerisms, my cadence on the field; it was truly like watching a reflection.”
For Michael, it was an emotional process to take on the life of such a famous figure, one who has divided many with the decision to kneel during the National Anthem.
“I was afraid of how people around me would see me, I was afraid of the repercussions from my family even — I know of people in my family who probably don’t agree with Colin,” he told The Hollywood Reporter on the red carpet. “That aspect was scary, but it was also scary because the show isn’t like any normal biopic where you have a little bit of liberty in creating the character. Colin and I share the screen so you have to get it perfectly or else it’s highlighted every mistake I make.”
Athletic endeavors aside, the series also follows Kaepernick’s upbringing after being adopted by a white couple when he was a baby. Nick Offerman plays father Rick and thinks “a lot of people will have their eyes opened” after learning about his background.
“I’m as snowflakey as they come and I’ve always looked to him as a very heroic American. It’s funny, I think a lot of the people who feel differently, if they really knew all of the details of his story [they] would feel the same,” said Offerman. “This is what America is all about, in the face of all odds and all popular opinion, standing up for his ideals and maintaining his character is more heroic and takes more guts and backbone than anything any of these fist-waving patriots or nationalists have ever had to do.”
DuVernay, who serves as co-creator, executive producer and director on the show, says she wanted to collaborate with Kaepernick to explore, “How do you get to be someone who is so concrete in your beliefs that you would sacrifice your career, something that you loved and worked so hard for? What kind of person is that?,” she told THR. “As you go through the series you’ll be like, ‘Oh I get it, I get where it comes from, that commitment, that focus.’ It helps you better understand him but maybe helps you better understand yourself.”
The premiere, among the very first to screen at the Academy Museum’s David Geffen Theater, also counted Regina King, Gayle King and filmmaker Victoria Mahoney, as well as Netflix execs Bela Bajaria, Peter Friedlander, Alison Engel and Bozoma St. John, among the attendees.
“His bravery emboldens me. In this series he allows us to watch one life and interrogate our own — our own place in the world, in our community, in our family, in here, inside,” DuVernay said before bringing Kaepernick to the stage ahead of the screening. “We support him, we salute him, we thank him, he is Colin Kaepernick.”
Colin in Black and White is now streaming on Netflix.
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