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.