LOS ANGELES – Dominic Bogart thinks the United States needs to have nuanced conversations about issues such as racism. A film that features the Lehman Catholic graduate aims to educate viewers and start some of those conversations.
Bogart played a small role in the 2019 movie “Just Mercy,” which is based on the true story of civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson. To allow Americans to learn more about systemic racism, Warner Bros. Pictures has made the film available to rent for free across digital platforms through the end of June.
“I think it’s really timely,” Bogart said of “Just Mercy.” “I don’t think there’s any easy answers.
“I think a really difficult, nuanced conversation has to be had, and we have to reckon with some things.”
“Just Mercy” stars Michael B. Jordan as Stevenson as he works to exonerate death row prisoner Walter McMillian, played by Jamie Foxx. The movie also stars Brie Larson as Eva Ansley, who helped Stevenson create the Equal Justice Initiative. Bogart portrays Doug Ansley, the husband of Eva Ansley.
“I felt pretty good about it,” Bogart said. “Proud in many moments of my friends and coworkers. And I was blown away by some performances in the film.
“I feel like there’s something really quirky and different about it to set it apart. I’m proud to have been a part of it.”
Set in Alabama during the 1980s and 1990s, the events of “Just Mercy” didn’t occur a long time ago, Bogart said. And there still are people in prison today who likely are innocent but didn’t receive proper defense, he said, making Stevenson’s work just as important today as it was when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative more than 30 years ago.
“These people are not political activists,” the 1996 Lehman Catholic alumnus said. “They’re human activists. It’s amazing what they’ve been doing all these decades.”
The Memorial Day death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in police custody after a white Minneapolis officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for almost eight minutes, sparked worldwide protests and calls for reforms.
Bogart isn’t sure what needs to be done – he doesn’t think solutions are as easy as some people make them out to be and is disgusted by political grandstanding – but he would love to see more support for the Equal Justice Initiative and more dialogue about issues the nation is facing.
“I’d love for people to have a bigger, more nuanced conversation about it,” he said.
“Just Mercy,” which had a budget of $25 million, has made more than $50 million worldwide. It’s the largest budget movie that’s featured Bogart, who has found a niche largely in independent films.
Bogart’s career highlights include playing the lead in “I Am Not a Hipster,” which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. That same year he was in the movie “Extracted,” which played at the South by Southwest Film Festival.
The Lehman graduate was in “The Birth of a Nation,” which won the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize in the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and was purchased by Fox Searchlight Pictures.
“I do love the anonymous nature and pulling them in in spite of that,” Bogart said of his roles in independent films. “They don’t care who you are. They don’t know who you are. But you make them.”
It was Bogart’s work in theater – he starred as Mark Cohen in a national tour of “Rent” and as Nick Massi in “Jersey Boys” in Chicago and San Francisco – that helped him break into the world of movies.
While performing in “Jersey Boys” in Chicago, Bogart met Destin Daniel Cretton, the writer, director and producer of “I Am Not a Hipster.”
Bogart’s work with Cretton led to roles in the bigger budget films he’s appeared in – “Just Mercy” and “The Glass Castle” – both of which were written and directed by Cretton.
“I’m just happy to ride the coattails any time I can,” said Bogart, who also has had reoccurring roles in television shows including AMC’s “Fear the Walking Dead” and the CW’s “Arrow.”
Bogart would like to get into more large budget movies, which are seen by more people and more lucrative, but he’s found satisfaction in independent films. He’s never been happier than he was earlier this year filming “Saturn,” a low budget superhero drama in which he plays the lead.
He was on set in Seabrook, Washington, for most of the six weeks of filming, which lasted 12-16 hours a day, six days a week. He’ll return to Washington in August to wrap up filming on the project.
In the meantime, Bogart is moving back to Shelby County from California, where he’s lived since 2005 after spending five years in New York. With movie production mostly shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s an opportunity for him to reconnect with his family.
“I do want to strengthen those bonds that have been loosened over the decades from having to be on the different coasts to be able to have this career,” he said.
He figures movie production will remain slow through the rest of the year, so he’s working on his own short films.
“In the down time it’s good to learn different perspectives on how to tell the story,” Bogart said. “And it only makes me a stronger actor to learn to make films.”
For more information about “Just Mercy” and how to watch it for free, visit justmercyfilm.com.
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