EBONY recently sat down with Margaret Qualley and Nick Robinson, who play couple Mary Dalton and Jan Erlone in new HBO drama Native Son, which is based on the novel of the same name by Richard Wright.
Mary and Jan are portrayed as often well-meaning yet ignorant friends of protagonist Bigger Thomas, portrayed by Ashton Sanders. For Qualley, Mary was a daunting role, but she admittedly enjoyed the challenge.
“I was really uncomfortable playing Mary, to be honest,” Qualley revealed, “but at the same time, it was something that was exciting for me. It was definitely a challenge. She’s interesting because she’s someone who is very well-intentioned, but she’s so privileged that she’s very much blinded by it and out of touch with reality, and that creates some really cringeworthy moments.”
In Wright’s novel, Jan was a Communist; in this modern-day retelling, Robinson believes the politically conscious character would fit more along the lines of being a Democratic-Socialist and a definite “Bernie supporter.” The film aims to explore the privilege afforded to even the most “woke” of White people, who often don’t see how they can be self-proclaimed liberals while still exhibiting problematic behavior.
“I think as a White person in America and, therefore, as an innately privileged person, it’s easy to walk through life without really seeing the effects of systemic racism,” stated Qualley. “Because, if anything, those effects are making your life a whole lot easier.”
Catch out the full Q&A above.
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Born and raised in Compton, California, Jessica Bennett began her career as an intern at The Oakland Post, and later, The Source Magazine. She went on to write for respected hip hop publications such as DJ Booth and Hip Hop DX before becoming the Urban Editor of pop culture website, Wetpaint.com. She joined Ebony as the Entertainment Editor August 2017. Bennett has interviewed such names as Vanessa Williams, Spike Lee, Tyra Banks, Forest Whitaker, Magic & Cookie Johnson and several others.