Brian Tyree Henry’s career exploded seven years ago with the debut of the TV show Atlanta. He was nominated for an Emmy for playing rapper Paperboy, and then had an ensemble role in “Godzilla vs. Godzilla.” Kong’, ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’, ‘Bullet Train’.
But the quiet drama Causeway stars James, an auto mechanic who strikes an unlikely friendship with a young veteran named Lindsey, played by Jennifer Lawrence.
Henry explains that James walks around with a lot of guilt, shame and grief because he was the driver of the crash, making him an amputee and killing his nephew. And then one day, Lindsey walks into his garage to fix a truck, befriends her, and finds her hope in being seen again.
Henry says he initially judged the character as stuck in life. “Why is he in a place that reminds me of all the loss? .
he continues. …there is something…you decide…it is actually beneficial to your growth and development.
In the “baptism scene”, as Henry calls it in the film, James takes off his prosthetic leg and pants and enters the pool with Lindsey.
“Baptism is where we essentially wash away all our sins…and you clearly come out anew. There was, and it was a sense of urgency.… We are breaking into property that is not ours in the middle of the night, drinking and drinking and having a good time. It’s down, so I wanted it to feel like James could actually release it and let his guard down.”
That scene is also one of exposure. “Something as simple as swimming was something I thought with James about what it really means to be undressed and exposed to someone, the process you have to do every day to get into the pool. Show them, etc. Take your feet off and really trust this person to not judge you, not react in any way, and actually just let you be.
He adds that he loves the “adolescent wonder” between the characters. “The more they were around each other, the lighter came out. And they were no longer just an obstacle. They didn’t get bogged down in what they didn’t get.
Although the two experience a romantic “do it, do it” dynamic, Henry says their connection is primarily about providing support.
“We wanted this to be an exploration of a friendship that had just existed. What if I needed someone to actually see who they were and where they were, and someone to take them back to where they started.”
He says that being together allows James and Lindsay to let go of the pain.
“We carry our scars and we hold our losses like tender babies. We carry them around—some of us don’t even know who we are without them.” And in the case of James and Lindsey, I think we can finally take this heavy load that they have carried or that has been imposed on them and see them put it down.”
Henry says the “true quest” they wanted to show was what it meant to start again. How many of us are constantly telling ourselves, “Let’s start tomorrow”? we all do this. It’s horrible. But it’s very satisfying when you can get started with someone who is actually trying to hold you accountable. …In each other, they discover the possibilities of how to start can do.
After all, Henry says he wants viewers to grow up with every character he’s ever played. “I want you to step out of your living room or movie theater and just think, ‘Are these people okay?'”