We Spoke To ‘Captive State’ Star Ashton Sanders, One Of The Most Electric Actors Working Today

Senior Entertainment Writer
03.15.19

Focus Features

Ashton Sanders is, if not one of, maybe the most electric and captivating young actors working today. You probably first noticed him in Moonlight, playing the teenage version of Chiron, always being bullied at school until one day he retaliates in a scene that I still think about all the time. He then starred opposite Denzel Washington in The Equalizer 2, a role that came about after Sanders met Denzel at the SAG awards and told him, “I want to work with you,” to which Denzel replied, “See you on set.”

It’s kind of weird when Sanders talks about the roles he doesn’t take, simply saying he doesn’t want to do anything that’s not interesting. But here’s an actor who has the ability to make anything interesting. Sanders says he’s looking for challenges, which also explains why he’s playing one of the 20th century’s most important literary characters, Bigger Thomas, in HBO’s upcoming adaptation of Native Son.

This weekend Sanders is in Captive State, a movie that is, frankly, a lot better and more interesting than you probably think it is at first glance. It’s a tough movie to market. Yes, it’s, ostensibly, about aliens who have taken over the world and how humankind has adapted and aligned themselves to our new leadership, but it’s not really about aliens. It’s a movie that explores what “normalcy” can become over time and the people who decide to fight against oppression.

And, look, the fact Ashton Sanders plays the lead in this movie makes it even more interesting. Sanders has a hectic shooting schedule right now, but he found some time early on Friday morning to talk with us.

This movie really surprised me. It wasn’t what I was expecting. It’s a really smart alien movie.

Yeah, you’re right on the money by saying that.

Is that what you liked about it?

I thought it was definitely something different about the film. Definitely a really smart film and a film with a lot of underlying messages that can be considered reflective of our situation in America right now.

I have no idea how it will do in theaters this weekend, but I think it’s one of those movies that people are going to keep discovering down the line.

I mean, that’s good, right? I mean hopefully people are coming out and resonating with it, but I definitely think I understand what you’re saying. It is one of those films that, yeah, like one of those realizations that you have, “Wow, this is on to something.” Because it definitely is on to something. It definitely isn’t your average sci-fi, alien film, thriller – if you even want to label it, or box it in as that.

Right, it’s obviously got a lot of themes to things that are happening today. How important is that to you? Because it does feel like you are in a lot of movies that have social themes.

I think it’s important for me as an artist. I think it’s important to do films that kind of teach. I feel like I’m supposed to be doing something with this opportunity that I have to be in the forefront. Yeah, I do kind of feel like it’s a responsibility. I’m not always looking for them, but that is something that I’m really interested in — social change. I think it’s important to showcase the complexities of what actually can be, or shit is. It’s kind of cool going against the grain, making people talk, doing my controversial shit. I think that’s really cool.

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