Last week Disney+ Safety was launched, a new film directed by Reginald Hudlin and aimed at former school footballer Ray McElrathby. While on a scholarship in Clemson, he was forced to adopt his younger brother while he (Ray) was still in college. While people tried to cope with the stress and cost of raising a child, McElrathby drew the wrath of the NCAA, who accused him of taking financial bribes in exchange for his time in Clemson. The film tells about this tumultuous period in his life and the stars Jay Reeves and Casey Fox, who met McElrathby on set.
The former footballer, who now lives with his family in Atlanta, was about to give advice in more than one capacity. Of course he was there to give ideas in terms of characterization – but he was also there to coach the Clemson Tigers, who are really just actors who need to be kept in top form in front of the camera.
McElrathby joined the conversation about the project.
You’ve had a lot of attention in your life, but now you’re living a pretty normal life. Is it surreal to see someone playing with you on the screen?
Of course, of course, of course. I’m so used to it. And I feel like I’m not very popular, but it seems like I’m getting more popular every day. So this is exciting for me.
I talked to some of the kids in the movie, and they were really excited to have you on set to talk to them and stretch their brains. What was it again?
I really wanted to put my own stuff in there, because even though they are professionals and do what they do, everything they do will somehow be connected to me. Most of his performances will always be associated with me. They could provide various services. It’s wonderful to sit there and watch people repeat things you’ve experienced yourself. Knowing they admire you for this opportunity is insane to me. Because I’ve never thought I’ve done a lot of great things in my life, I’d like to think so, but I know a lot of people who have done a lot of great things, but they don’t have movies. So it’s a lesson in humility, and I’m lucky to be where I am and that I can experience it.
You said something about coaching all the boys. In fact, Mrs. Fox said she came exactly one day and then stopped. Was it mainly a social experience or did you think it was important that they were physically able to play football, even though it wasn’t a big part of the real story?
It was both an experience that bonded them, but it was also an opportunity to make them work in the mode in which they had to play, because there were certain things, a lot of scenes that were not in the movie in which they worked and that you didn’t see.
So I wanted them to know it was really happening so they could give it more authenticity than anything else. They did a good job. That’s why I worked with Jay from the moment I knew he had the script and that he would be the man to play me.
It was a great experience to help in my grain of salt and coach actors, because one thing you can’t do professionally is imitate someone better than they do – because I’m a better version of myself, I guess.
I think the film will inevitably be compared to The Blind Side, because both relate to NCAA issues and other matters. Did you like the movie?
Yeah, I liked The Blind Side. There were a few parts because Michael Oher came out at the end and talked about everything he thought was too dramatic. I didn’t mind. I don’t even know why he cared.
Did you want to keep these parts of the film in mind to minimize the creative license for your story? Or do you soften some edges where you might be a little selfish?
There were times when I wondered how I could appear in front of a larger audience, but I felt the need to let people know that I wasn’t perfect. I don’t want people to get the wrong idea and think that what I’ve done for my brother makes me special or better suited than most. The only difference between you and me is that I made a decision to do something, and you might not have done it or needed to do it.
So I think people should know Hey, your choices affect your life, and you can influence your life by the choices you make. Sometimes the wrong decisions are made. And I don’t like to pretend. I’ve made a lot of bad parenting decisions. I haven’t been the best mother. There are many things I can do better with my son than with my brother. And that’s just because of the growth. And the process is that you, you get better, you don’t have to be the best. You have to strive to be the best. And I wanted people to see that in the movie, and I hope they get it out of the movie.
You talk about the importance of the choices you make, and that’s what you talk about in the movie. There is a scene where you are facing your coach and he uses the same language almost like a stick against you. Did you like something like that in the movie?
I felt very good because I think it was necessary in this part of the film. You can see my time with the coaches hasn’t been the best. There have been some very controversial moments with some of my coaches, and that’s the way it is, and you can deal with it, you can discuss it, and you can move on.
And that’s the part that I want people to understand – that even with my mother and my life and my family, with everyone, with everything, if you go on, you can get through it. And I think everyone should work on the past instead of clinging to things they don’t like.
What was it like working with Reginald Hadlin? Because he’s a man who’s been in our space for years.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. In fact, I want him to take my film and make an adaptation for your space to make a comic book that focuses on my life story. I think it would be great… maybe some kind of entertainment to go along with.
When I work with a guy like Reggie, I look at him the same way you do. That guy’s a legend. It’s that guy. For example, he has done some of the most remarkable things that can be called grand. Reggie was also a great person and a great creator, director, designer, producer, whatever you want to call him. He’s a great man and I’m glad he’s forever part of my life and my story.
So some of the young actors don’t remember subway TVs and stuff. There were five of them. Didn’t you find it strange going on holiday to your old house?
Yes, of course. I was homesick for those moments because I asked him to add things. There are things that bring me back. I wanted them to have a sticker for my school that was in my room. I had one that had my M for high school, and other things I just wanted a room for, because they took me back to a time when I was doing really well. And it was important to me. And I’m glad that even with music you can bring people back to a time when things seemed better, I think.
Security is now at Disney+.
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