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Monster Stars Jennifer Hudson And Jeffrey Wright Reveal Insight Behind Their Roles - Exclusive Interview

"Monster" follows the story of Steve Harmon, a bright teenager whose world is upended after he's charged in connection with a murder. While the American justice system rests on the principle "innocent until proven guilty," all parties involved know that, as a Black teenager accused of a crime, Steve is guilty in the eyes of many unless he can prove otherwise. Two people behind him all the way are his parents, played by Jennifer Hudson and Jeffrey Wright. Well off, stable, and unconditionally loving of their son, they offer him advice during his imprisonment — and know the long odds he faces.

Looper spoke with Hudson and Wright about their roles in "Monster." They explained what attracted them to the project, how their own parenthood influenced their performances, and whether their characters truly believed in Steve's innocence.

Parenthood and being drawn to the role

What drew you to the role?

Jeffrey Wright: I think parenthood drew me to the role. That and Tonya Lee Lewis, who was insistent that I be a part of this film because I had just finished making a couple other things and my schedule was kind of squeezed. She said "Jeffrey, you must, you must, you must do this." She gave me the script and I said "Okay, I understand." It was my experiences as the father of a teenage boy, as well a teenage girl, here in New York City, and this story is a really beautifully drawn portrait of the difficulties, the challenges, the victories for a young Black boy becoming a man in a world that doesn't necessarily receive his masculinity in the most nurturing, healthy way for him. That's a story that I know, in some ways, unfortunately too well.

Jennifer, same question. What drew you to the role?

Jennifer Hudson: It's a story that was worth being told and I definitely wanted to be a part of that. Again, I feel like it's something truly necessary for this time right now, which makes me even more excited about it, to know that what we did was something, a story worth being told and something very powerful.

Guilty until proven innocent

Do you think your characters had any doubts about your son's innocence?

Jennifer Hudson: No, and that's the hurtful part, I think, of when someone stains your name or your character or who you are, what you represent, and it may have been, I think, in the son's mind if his parents thought that. But that's when love and the unity in the family really shows, because a parent will be there no matter what. You see what I'm saying? I feel as though the parents would have done, and did do, a great job by standing by their child, be it right or wrong, not saying condoning the wrong, but as a parent, it's still your child.

Jeffrey, would you agree?

Jeffrey Wright: Oh yeah. I absolutely agree that it's because this is a family, this is a loving family, this is a family that tries to do the right things for their children and two parents who try to create an environment inside their home that is protective and nurturing and fosters growth and good wellbeing. But outside that door, there's a world out there that offers temptation, sometimes poison, healthy things, beautiful things, but sometimes dangerous things, particularly for a young Black man who walks through that door into that world.

No matter what, Steve, as played by Kelvin, is our loving son. But at the same time, we know as parents of a child as in the real world — I think both Jennifer and I know — that the world isn't necessarily going to receive a child like our son in this film in a way that's going to be to his benefit. Despite all that, we love him, man. We trust him and have faith in him, but we understand that sometimes the world outside is difficult to have faith in when it comes to our kids.

"Monster" debuts on Netflix May 7.