At the 2016 American Black Film Festival, screenwriter, Michelle McKissick stunned the judges at the ABFF TV One Screenplay Competition. This year, the finalist and honorable mention winner will see her film Downsized come to life with Nicole Ari Parker and her real-life husband Boris Kodjoe starring in her debut original film.
Directed by Rhonda Baraka, Downsized is the story of two high school sweethearts Michael (Kodjoe), and Ebony (Parker) find themselves at a crossroads. Married for twenty years, the couple is now in danger of losing the family and the successes that they have worked so hard for. In order to say their marriage, the duo along with their children embark on an unconventional adventure of healing and forgiveness.
At the 2017 ABFF, EBONY.com sat down with Parker and Kodjoe to talk about the film, and what they learned about themselves through their characters’ choices and decisions.
EBONY: Congratulations on Downsized.
Nicole Ari Parker: Thank you.
EBONY: What was it about Michelle McKissick’s script that really moved you to be a part of this film?
Boris Kodjoe: It’s always a combination of factors that play into our decisions. Rhonda Baraka is somebody that we’ve known for a long time.
NAP: Yeah, we’ve wanted to work with her.
BK: We’ve worked on a lot of projects with her before, and she was definitely a deciding factor as well as Swirl Films; another team that we’ve wanted to work with in some capacity. And then, of course, the script. When you look at the script, it’s a story that’s probably not told a lot in our community. We’re always attracted to things that depict us differently; that let us challenge stereotypes.
NAP: For me, it was really just a chance to work together again. The script was really fun and deep all at the same time. I just really wanted to jump in as an actor and be creative. I always get cast as the lawyer or the executive.
EBONY: High-powered women.
NAP: [Laughing] Yes. I’m not mad at it, but this was a chance for me to be a mom and a wife and a hairdresser. It was a change, and I jumped at the chance.
EBONY: Wonderful, now you talked a bit about stereotypes earlier. In films and on TV, marriage isn’t necessarily revered as it should be. Was that another reason why you were interested in bringing Downsized to life?
NAP: Yeah, I think that we’re all programmed to walk away, and there is some kind of glory if you go through the rough patch and I really appreciated that in the story. Joy does come in the morning when you push through when it’s worth it. Sometimes it’s not worth it, and marriage isn’t for everybody. It shouldn’t be a blanket standard. Not everybody is supposed to be a doctor or a surgeon; there’s going to be lots of blood. [Laughing]
EBONY: [Laughing] Yes, you might pass out.
NAP: It’s not easy, and yet it’s so rewarding if you fight for it.
EBONY: Is there anything that you learned about yourself through your characters Michael and Ebony?
NAP: These are great questions.
EBONY: Thank you!
NAP: I learned that forgiveness is possible and that was a nice journey to take. Sometimes, we let things go, but we don’t really forget or forgive in the heart. Ebony I think forgave in her heart, and that was a nice lesson to experience.
BK: One of the things I discovered was how much we are affected by family and how much family means to us. I’ve always known that but it’s a nice experience to walk through that again on camera. We have made family our number one priority, and it’s kind of nice to be able to play that in a film as well.
NAP: Yes, you know the actors who played our children were so incredible. Their performances were so moving because you think in this modern age, when mommy and daddy break up the kids are going to be fine. So, to see someone depict that mommy and daddy breaking up really does affect everyone around you, it was great to see that captured on screen.
EBONY: Thank you so much and congratulations on Downsized.
Downsized will debut on TV One this fall.