Nella Larsen wrote “Passing” in 1929 and nearly a hundred years later we’re still grappling with many of the same issues.
The film adaptation of ‘Passing’ comes to Netflix in less than two weeks and we’re excited to offer a little bit of what audiences can expect in advance. The film stars Tessa Thompson as Irene Redfield, a Harlem housewife, married to Dr. Brian Redfield (played by Andre Holland). Irene has a chance encounter with an old acquaintance, Clare (played by Ruth Negga), who is now passing for white and is married to a wealthy racist white man who has no idea of her true identity. Longing for the community she left behind for her new life, Clare latches on to Irene and begins to spend time in Harlem among her social circle despite the dangerous circumstances.
BOSSIP’s Sr. Content Director Janeé Bolden spoke with Andre Holland about his portrayal of Dr. Brian Redfield and he revealed that many of the themes of the film have also played out in his own life.
“Brian and Irene’s relationship and how they’re trying to find new ways to keep themselves and their young boys safe is something really my upbringing helped me understand in a way,” Holland told BOSSIP. “I grew up in Alabama and the conversation they’re having in the movie is a conversation that I’ve had with my parents. So I really understood his point of view and felt that very deeply.”
One of the major themes of the film is how Harlem isn’t safe for a woman in Clare’s position, but also embedded in the plot is the understanding that even with their comfortable lives, Brian and Irene and their kids are also not completely safe, which begs the question whether there is anywhere Black people can exist safely.
“That’s the question at the center of what Brian is wrestling with in the movie,” Holland told BOSSIP. “He talks about wanting to go to Brazil. There’s this long history of Black artists leaving America, going to France and other places trying to find some sense of safety. Another question that came up for me, was in this moment in history when so many Black people are running to Harlem, whether from down south or coming home from the war, that this man who is living a relatively happy life, wants to get out. That’s one of the things I hope people will talk about when this comes out. Is there anywhere that is safe?
Watch the full interview below:
“Passing” is currently playing in select theaters and will arrive on Netflix November 10th.