For those not familiar with it, this Jeff Nichols-directed biopic is about Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple who lived in Caroline County during a time where such a thing was against the law in the state of Virginia.
In the 1967 case of Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Lovings, legalizing interracial and inter-ethnical marriage nationwide.
Prior to the premiere of the Loving, a private screening of the film was held for the cast and crew at the Byrd Theatre in Richmond on Wednesday, Nov. 2, a place where the Lovings would probably not been allowed in together before the case. I was given the luxury of attending the event, as I was an extra in the film.
More than one year ago, I had just moved back to Goochland County and was in between jobs when I heard that a movie was going to be filmed in Virginia. I studied cinema in college, so the prospect to work on a professional film with established actors and an up-and-coming director was an incredible opportunity.
I made my first ever trip to the town of Bowling Green when the filmmakers held a casting call there. I showed up fashionably late, as I always do, and found the line wrapped around nearly the entire town. I knew I had the smallest of chances at making it into the film––until I saw the application.
Richard Loving was a bricklayer, and the film features several bricklaying scenes. Nichols and the producers were looking for real bricklayers to be the extras in the scenes.
My dad has been a bricklayer for nearly 40 years and I worked with him during summers throughout high school and college. I wrote on the application that the film could have a father-son bricklayer package, and slightly exaggerated my own masonry skills, and the producers scooped us up to be in the movie.
I can be seen in the first five minutes of the film. I am in the background, unloading a truck, while Richard Loving works. My dad is in the film a couple of times, and there are several close ups of his hands doing the work.
Being a part of the filmmaking process was an unforgettable experience, but I did not realize at the time that I was on the set of a masterpiece.
Nichols displays his extraordinary storytelling abilities through this film, as he takes a simple, yet important, story and shows the viewer what lies between the lines. The audience can feel the emotions of the Lovings, and empathize with them, as Joel Edgerton (Richard Loving) and Ruth Negga (Mildred Loving) perfectly portray interracial lovers as the low-key country folk that they were. The subtlety of the film makes the characters more relatable and realistic.
Edgerton’s Richard Loving is stoic throughout most of the film, making it extremely impactful when he finally does show emotion. I am not one to cry during movies, but this movie made me want to on a few occasions. I am truly proud to have been a part of such a moving motion picture.
Do not take my word on how phenomenal this movie is––the critic site, Rotten Tomatoes gave the film an 89 percent fresh rating.
The best thing about the film is that the Lovings are finally being recognized as the heroes that they are.
After watching the film last Wednesday, I spent a good chunk of Thursday digging through the archives of The Caroline Progress. I looked up the date of the Lovings’ arrest for being married to each other, the date of the Supreme Court ruling and a few other significant dates in the couples’ lives. Most of these events happened in Caroline County, for example, they were locked up in the jail in Bowling Green.
However, I could not find a single mention of the Lovings in any of the TCP issues following those key dates. It leads me to believe that the editor of TCP at the time chose to ignore the Lovings’ case. The Lovings received a ton of exposure during that time from other sources, but none from their hometown newspaper.
I believe that everything happens for a reason. If I were not in Loving, then I probably would not have watched it and been impacted by it. One year after that first Bowling Green trip and I find myself working for that hometown newspaper that once excluded the legendary interracial couple. It all comes full circle.
Rest in peace, Richard and Mildred.