Rebecca Hall says the instruction of ‘Passing’ helped ‘unlock’ Black family history

Writing and instruction Passed have given Rebecca Hall a wealth of things: critics’ praise, first-time directorial experience, the buzz of the award season. One thing she did not expect, however, is the deep dive into her family’s own story, which the film spurred on.

It told the 39-year-old actress-director theGrio solely the reading of the novel from 1929 on which Passed is based, and the instruction of the film itself helped her reveal her own family’s history of death and white assimilation. Hall, daughter of Detroit opera singer Maria Ewing and founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company Peter Hall, confirmed that her grandfather was a black-and-white passer-by.

“I mean, that was the whole book [triggering]. It was big for me. The book unlocked – it really gave me an access point to my family’s history that would otherwise have remained hidden, ”Hall explained. “It was huge for my family. It remains huge for my family. At the beginning of this process, I really knew very little about my grandfather, other than that he was probably black.”

She continued: “But now I know for sure he was black, he passed white. Besides, his parents were black. So he was raised black, he became socialized black. I [now] know things about the black side of my family that are extraordinary, and things to be proud of that I would never have known if I had not gone on this journey. “

Rebecca Hall attends the opening gala of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures on September 25, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Amy Sussman / Getty Images)

Hall revealed that she worked on the film’s script for 13 years before it became the amazing film it is today. Recorded in black and white, Passed tells the story of Irene, a black woman whose world is turned upside down when she recognizes Clare, a childhood friend who now turns white in 1920s New York City. The two friends have to confront racism, identity, jealousy and more in the film, which is based on the novel written by In Larsen.

“I wrote the first draft of this manuscript 13 years ago, and I’ve been tinkering with it ever since,” she said. theGrio. “At a certain point, I can not even look at [Passing] as something that I can objectively see how I clearly did. For it has almost become something that I have been in dialogue with for a large part of my adult life. So you know, it’s a bit of a part of me right now. “

“In the beginning, my adaptation was in a way quite free. I think it’s because I was so overwhelmed by the book’s brilliance. I finished it and I immediately started writing because it turned on me so much. It triggered so many ideas that I saw images that I wanted to include in the film [and] I could see how it was done. I was so outraged in a way that it was not already a movie because it felt so timeless, so universal. So all the stuff that is great art and I could not help but write it. ”

Hall called on Hollywood favorites Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga, as well André Holland and Alexander Skarsgård, to help bring the film to life. Thompson takes on the role of Irene, while Negga plays her friend, Clare. Skarsgård plays the lead role as Clare’s white husband, John, and Holland portrays Irene’s husband, Brian.

ANDRÉ HOLLAND as BRIAN and DIRECTOR REBECCA HALL. (Cr: Emily V. Aragones / Netflix © 2021)
Passing Netflix

That Moonlight actor, 41, told theGrio that Hall’s infectious enthusiasm and energy “permeated the cast and crew and enabled us to achieve a truly delightful film.”

“She’s a great actress, and she brought a lot of her acting skills to the set as a director,” Holland said. “She really understands the acting process, and so she gave us enough space to do what we had to do to prepare and give our best performances.”

He added: “I think the fact that her father was such a skilled theater director is probably part of what gave her a sense of confidence. You never a second on the set – I never thought, ‘Oh “Wow, it’s someone making their first movie. She does not know what she’s doing.” No, no, she was sure of every step of the way. “

Passed is now streaming on Netflix and can be seen in select theaters. Fans can see theGrio‘s interview with Hall and Holland above.

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