The American Black Film Festival (ABFF) opens its 27th year today with They Cloned Tyrone, a new thriller starring John Boyega, Teyonah Parris and Jamie Foxx. Producer Stephen Love is thrilled to bring this highly-anticipated sci-fi, conspiracy caper, which has an unusual origin story, to the screen. Tyrone co-writer Juel Taylor came up with the idea after a friend of his was arrested while in college.


Stephen Love

Proucer Stephen "Dr." Love. Image: Damu Malik/courtesy of Stephen Love.

“He was there on a full football scholarship but was riding around with a teammate who had a firearm in the car.  And even though he did nothing wrong, the school said, ‘You gotta go,’” Love explains.

Juel’s friend fell into a deep depression. “It led him to believe that everything in the world was against him; the man had it out for him all these things. Juel was struggling with the fact that his friend who he knows is capable of getting out of his hole was still kind of mulling over what happened five years later, so this movie is basically just a pontification exploration of his feelings about both sides of that situation.”

From the film’s inception to coining a new musical genre, Love shares more insights on They Cloned Tyrone, which debuts on Netflix June 21, 2023.

EBONY: How did the concept of They Cloned Tyrone come to you and why did you decide you wanted to be a part of it?

Stephen Love: A few years after we graduated, the director and co-writer Juel Taylor and I were sitting in a Starbucks. He gave me a logline about three people in a neighborhood in the South (where we’re both from) and they realize the government was doing mind control experiments on the neighborhood. They have to become detectives, unwillingly, but they have to do it in order to save their community. And I was like, “That's dope.” He said that he jokingly called it They Cloned Tyrone but was going to rename it. I said, “You're gonna call it They Cloned Tyrone and I'm gonna produce it because the title is just so catchy. One of our other really close colleagues is Steven Caple Jr., who just directed Transformers: Rise of the Beasts. One executive was smart enough to ask him if he had anything original. We gave him the logline and they wanted us to come in and pitch it the next week. We locked ourselves in an apartment over four days to get it done, took it out and a bidding war ensued—every studio in town wanted it. We decided to sell it to MACRO because my first movie, The Land was Charles King’s first movie as a financier. And the best thing is that they basically said, “Look, we'll give you creative control; we’ll get out of the way and let you do your thing and just distribute it and help protect your vision. So that's how it all started.

You didn’t have a script yet?

It was just a page, but we had a vision. We had a poster that one of Juel’s homeboys painted for us. And Juel had a playlist also where he basically was queuing music in real time throughout the story. It felt like you were watching the movie already. I think that's part of the reason we’ve had such success is because, despite the short time we had, we were really intentional about how we presented it.

One of the things that is very evident in the film is the music. Can you talk a little bit more about the intention behind the songs?

The movie’s playlist is basically what they wrote the script to. There's a lot of that music and tonality and style that ended up in the final film. It's easy to assume that that it's just hip hop. But when you watch, it’s a mix of everything. It's all unapologetically Black music: there’s jazz and some trap music to represent the South neighborhood we’ve depicted. Our score was created by Desmond Murray. He’s a brand new composer, but will not be a new name for very long. There is some composition that feels more sci-fi so we started terming it "cosmic trap." It feels psychedelic and sounds like George Clinton back in the day, but also, at the same time, can feel like classical music through its instrumentation. Hopefully, that sound is something that catches on.

The movie uses the N-word prolifically. As some people may feel uncomfortable hearing that word over and over, why was that choice made?

I'm glad you brought that up. I'm from a backwoods county in South Carolina. My dad is a pastor and my mom's a teacher. That word is not one that we use. There’s the argument that the characters in this specific environment are not just a reflection of a neighborhood, but a neighborhood that is controlled by someone other than themselves, and that’s why they are using it a lot. Then there is that concept of taking back the power by using that word, which is the offense argument to defend it. At the same time, there are people who feel uncomfortable because even if we take it back, the origin is still the same. I think the debate is a healthy one. For the movie, it was about these characters and in this space, everything that they listen to, eat and see is controlled by the environment. So that's really why it's so prevalent.

Jamie Foxx is also a producer of the film. What was it like working with him?

He was amazing. He was so humble in the sense of working with a first-time director. Juel had never done a movie, and for Jamie Foxx to trust the strength of the script was amazing. He wasn’t coming to set and acting like the legend that he rightly is. He just said that he wanted Juel to direct and shape him. I have immense respect because he is a giant in our community, industry and craft. I can't wait to work with him again.

How did you come up with the name of your production company, Made with Love?

Obviously, my last name is Love. And it's a signature of the type of movies that I'm involved in and what I want to do in the future, etc. Because it is really important to me that we, as Black people, get to tell all types of stories. I'm not interested in doing anything that feels one way or another, that has to be filled with all tragedy or something else because someone other than us made that mandate. I would rather do the things that are for us, by us, and also sometimes, for all.