Jason Mitchell had his big breakout role in 2015’s Straight Outta Compton, receiving accolades for his portrayal of Eazy-E. Since then he’s appeared in Kong: Skull Island, Keanu and, now, playing the pivotal role of Carl Cooper in Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit (read our review of the film here).
The entire second act of Detroit recreates the incident at The Algiers Motel – an intense and deadly police interrogation after there were reports that gunfire had come from the motel, which was most likely just Carl Cooper’s harmless starting pistol. And as Mitchell explains ahead, the way Kathryn Bigaeow (whom he refers to as “The Big Cat”) shot the scene, the actors didn’t have the full script and didn’t know what would happen to other characters. So when some of the actors see Mitchell for the first time, it’s a shocking experience because they didn’t know that would happen. (SPOILER ALERT: Mitchell does get into spoilers about what happens to Carl).
Carl is one of the most pivotal characters in Detroit.
The other actors didn’t know my character was killed until they were brought out of the room. They didn’t read that in the script, they didn’t find that out. They saw me laying on the floor, dead. You hear what I’m saying?
Oh, I didn’t know that…
Yeah, it was very, very, very organic. Everything that I knew about the situation was very, very abstract. You know what I mean? I didn’t even know some of these things until I got on set because I didn’t have the entire script. Man, so I knew I was coming to make history, but I didn’t know why.
Could that also be frustrating?
You know, as an actor, you live for creative control. You wait for that day to say, “I want to improv all my lines, and I want to do all this, and I want to do all that.” And it happened for me at that time. And it was such a bigger-than-life moment because I had so much control. But at the same time, it was such a great responsibility because you have to keep it 100 percent real and keep it 100 percent authentic. And it was scary sometimes. Like, it got very eerie. Me and Will Poulter, we saw each other at an award show maybe a year before we did this movie and we were like, “Yo, we’re going to work together!” And we’re such big fans of each other. Then we meet each other and he has on this uniform and it’s turned up and we have to take it there, you know? And as much as it is a privilege, it’s tough. Super, super tough.