I first saw Deon Taylor’s harrowing film Supremacy starring Danny Glover last year at the Los Angeles Film Festival. Released today in theaters and on VOD, Supremacy tells the story of a member of the Aryan Brotherhood who takes an African American family hostage while on the run. Within hours of being released from 14 years in a maximum-security prison, Aryan Brotherhood member Garrett Tully (Joe Anderson) kills a cop and finds himself on the run, this time with Doreen (Dawn Olivieri), the Aryan Brotherhood groupie who was sent to pick him up. Tully finds a house off a dirt road and he and Doreen take the family living there hostage. The family’s patriarch, Mr. Walker (Danny Glover), is a jaded ex-con who hates the police so much he is estranged from his cop son (Derek Luke). Seeing a familiar desperation in Tully, Mr. Walker senses that he can find a way out of the potentially deadly situation that threatens to explode at any moment. The performances in this tense and deeply effective psychological thriller, written by Eric J. Adams, are extraordinary across the board. The cast includes Lela Rochon, Evan Ross, and Anson Mount. I sat down with the director to discuss this intense psychological thriller.

deontaylorDanny Miller: I know this film was based on actual events. Did you use that story more as a jumping off point or did you stick pretty closely to the facts?

Deon Taylor: Oh no, we stuck very close to what happened. I worked with the real-life family every step of the way — we’re really on point here. It was pretty intense when I  screened the film to the family. Imagine what it must be like to see the worst thing that ever happened to you on the screen.

I bet they were relieved to have such amazing actors playing them.

Oh, definitely. Film is such a powerful tool. This story really spoke to me — I had never made a film like this before. But this movie let me know how powerful God is in so many ways. You know, situations like this don’t usually end in this way — just look at all the shootings that are happening right now. The first time I read the screenplay, I identified with it in a very personal way.

How so?

When I was in college, I was carjacked and I ended up getting shot. The people that jacked me just left me for dead and drove off. I crawled blocks to someone’s house and knocked on the door. The first person looked out the window and told me to get off her porch. The second house I went to, the lady called the police and told me to wait there. They didn’t know who I was, I was just this black guy bleeding like crazy and screaming. I hadn’t done anything wrong — I was just a college student who was playing basketball and someone wanted my car. I think about that all the time because God allowed me to come out of that and become a stronger person in so many ways. I come from the inner city in Chicago. We had over 500 kids killed there last year — it’s like something out of the Wild West. You can’t walk down the street, man! So when I read a script like this, about this guy who gets out of prison and within hours kills someone and takes this whole family hostage, I was like, do you really think anyone’s going to get out of there? This story has so many great life lessons. This character that Danny plays, Mr. Walker, had to really understand what he was dealing with. Not only do they get out of there, but they position themselves to have a conversation with this white supremacist.

So many of the scenes in this film have stayed with me, but one that really blew me away was with Odessa (Lela Rochon) after her son is shot. She finally says to Tully, “Look, I’m going to the hospital right now. You can kill me if you want, but I’m going.” And he lets her go.

That’s it, man! I’ve had some people say that could never happen but it DID happen to this woman. You get to the point where you just say, “Hey, man, whatever you’re going to do to me, go ahead and do it because I’m done with all of this now. You gotta kill me or you gotta let me go out of this house and save my son.” That’s such an incredible moment. It was the breaking point for the Tully character, especially when she says to him, “Haven’t you ever loved someone?”

It’s a very moving scene. It’s also poignant when we realize that Mr. Walker, a man Tully is supposed to hate because of the color of his skin, is actually giving him more attention than he’s ever received from an older male figure in his entire life.

That’s the movie! And at the same time, Mr. Walker is not even a father to his own child. So everyone here is getting all these parallel lessons within the film. And, believe me, when we were on set, there were so many little things that we all identified with. For myself, I didn’t have a father until much later in life. I knew who my father was but he had nothing to do with us. I think I was 29 or 30 when I finally sat down with him and said, “Hey, man, what’s going on? I need to know who you are. I need you to meet my daughter.” We all related to things in this movie, including Danny who has a difficult relationship with his own son.

Was this the kind of film that produced e a lot of intense discussions on the set?

Oh yeah, absolutely. With our budget we didn’t have a lot of rehearsal time beforehand — we shot the whole thing in 18 days. So we’d find ourselves having those discussions between takes. I was always like, “Let’s talk it through!” And if something wasn’t working, we changed it right there on the spot. When we shot the ending of the film, the dialogue between Danny and Joe just wasn’t right. Danny said, “I’m not feeling this part, baby.” And Joe said, “It’s feeling a little forced.” So we stopped. I knew how it was supposed to feel so we rewrote the scene. Now I feel that the ending of the film is breathtaking. Here’s a guy who’s been so full of hate and has been using this word that he doesn’t really understand, and Danny just flips it on him. He makes Joe look in the mirror and see what he’s been doing. Sometimes we all need to do that, man.


I know these are all professional actors, but was it hard for Joe and Dawn to say all those very ugly things and use the N-word so much?

Oh, yeah, man, it really hard on all of us. But we had to do it to tell this story. I remember that before I even spoke to Joe and Dawn, I had a long conversation with Danny. You have to remember this man is almost 70 years old and he’s lived through these moments in time. He’s marched, he’s met all these people who have fought so hard for us to be in a better place. So I wasn’t cavalier about any of this stuff. I respect Danny, I respect my mom, I respect all the people who have fought for that, you know what I mean? So I had a real conversation with him about limits. How far could we go? Danny had no problems with saying, “Hey baby, that’s enough!”

The interaction between Danny and Joe was electrifying. I was surprised to find out that Joe Anderson is actually British.

Yeah, he’s British and he’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. I think when people see this movie and see these hair-raising performances, they’re going to be amazed. Joe had to work himself into a ball of anger on set and there would be times when he’d finish a scene and just have go away for a while.

Playing a part like that has got to take a toll on you.

It does, but these people cared so much about getting it right. I’ve seen the reaction that people have when I’ve watched the movie in a theater. We had a screening the other day and there was this lady who ran out of the theater during the film. I went to the lobby and saw that she was crying and I said, “Hey, are you all right? Do you think you’ll be able to come back in and watch the rest of the film?” And she said, “Oh, I’m not leaving, I just needed to take a moment to breathe.” I remember talking to Joe and Dawn after that screening and telling them that we had something very special.

How did you get Danny Glover to be in the film?

That was really big for me. When you think of all these great actors that you dream of working with, Danny is at the top of the list. He’s a legend. Without people like Sidney Poitier and Danny, there would be no Jamie, there would be no Will, there would be no Forest, they wouldn’t exist.

I so admire actors of his caliber who clearly are not in it just for the paycheck.

This is his life. When you meet Danny and look at his body of work, you understand right away that this is a working actor. This is what he was put on earth to do. I first knew Danny from charity work. Every year I do this thing where I go out and feed a thousand families in Sacramento with single mothers at Christmas time.  My mom raised me and my brother by herself. We always had it hard, man. So when I got a little money and things were going better for me, I felt like I had to give back. Two years in a row, Danny came out and fed people with us. We never had a conversation about movies or working together or anything like that, but when I read this screenplay, he was the first person I thought of.

Were you thinking, “He’ll never agree to be in a tiny film like this?”

Of course! But when I called him, he remembered that story. So I sent him the script and about a week and a half passed. Every day I was like, “Dang, he’s not gonna call me back!” And then one day, I remember it so well, I got a call on my phone and I looked down and it said Danny Glover! I still thought he was going to say no but he said he liked it and he wanted us to do it right. I was shaking, man!

It must be so cool for him to know that his involvement with films like this can often be the difference between the movie getting out there or not.

You’re right about that, and what was also great was that his involvement made me even more focused on making a film that was worthy of Danny. I wanted this film to be of equal value to his body of work. And I think he’s so brilliant in the film. Everyone is. I know I’m biased, but when I watch this movie, I go, “You don’t see these kinds of performance all the time!”


It’s true. And it was such a different kind of part for some of them. I’ve never seen Lela Rochon in such an intense role! 

I’ll tell you a funny story. You know, we all know Lela from films like Boomerang and Waiting to Exhale — she’s always been the incredibly gorgeous black pin-up girl — the hot chick, right? So, the first day on set, she pulls me over to the side and says, “Deon! Now you know I ain’t never done nothin’ like this!” We were putting her in all this make-up and tucking her hair and tattooing her neck, just completely pulling her back. So she was like, “I look terrible!” And I said, “Lela, you just got to trust me on this! I’m not gonna mess it up.” And then she got in there, man, and she was Odessa. They got in that closet and she started yelling at Danny and those scenes with her daughter, man, those are very tough scenes to do. And I was like, man, this is real, this is the kind of stuff people don’t get to see in movies about black households.

Supremacy opens today in select cities and is available on VOD.