Exclusive Interview: The Inspection stars Jeremy Pope & Gabrielle Union on collaborating with Elegance Bratton on his deeply personal film

Pier Kids filmmaker Elegance Bratton makes his emotionally potent narrative feature debut with The Inspection, opening in US theaters from A24 on Friday, November 18th, following its world premiere at the 47th Toronto International Film Festival. Dedicated to his late mother, the impactful drama is inspired by events in Bratton’s own life, with Jeremy Pope starring as a Black queer man in his mid-twenties, Ellis French, who has been living in a state of housing insecurity since being disowned as a teen by his religious prison officer mother, Inez (Gabrielle Union). Struggling with a precarious and directionless existence, Ellis decides to enlist in the Marines during the era of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, but Inez is less impressed by the news than French had hoped.

The Inspection writer-director Elegance Bratton on location. Photo Credit: Josiah Rundles. Courtesy of A24.

“This movie is 100% autobiographical when it comes to the motivations, fears, and desires of French, even if the situations are not”, Elegance Bratton shares with The Queer Review. “However, everything that happens between French and his mother is a conversation that happened between me and my mother. I’m so grateful to Gabrielle for bringing my mother back to life so that I could have some closure. I felt blessed that Gabrielle and Jeremy protected me throughout this process, made space for me to be sad and cry, to be angry, and to continue to be my full self while wrestling with all of this. We had a community of mutual aid around this particular relationship in the film and this moment in my life, and I felt safe enough to then have the ideas I needed to turn it from real life into cinema.”

Writer-director Elegance Bratton directs actor and executive producer Gabrielle Union in The Inspection Photo credit: Patti Perret. Courtesy of A24.

Gabrielle Union, who also serves as an executive producer on the film, was initially surprised to be asked to play the role of this rather stern, unrelenting mother who rejects her son for being queer. “I was shocked to be asked to be honest”, Union tells The Queer Review, “But ultimately, throughout the process of making this film, I was incredibly humbled and honored that someone could see something in me that I never saw in myself and get a performance out of me that I didn’t think existed within this body at this time.”

Gabrielle Union as Inez in Elegance Bratton’s The Inspection. Photo credit: Patti Perret. Courtesy of A24.

She was keen for Jeremy Pope to be involved in the film, telling us, “I DM’d Jeremy as a fan to ask if he was considering doing the movie.” Detailing their dynamic while on set she adds, “I felt an incredible urge to protect him and to nurture and to love him and to cheer him on. That’s been a real organic thing, we didn’t work at that, we just fell into it. Then there was one very fun plane ride that really cemented it.”

Gabrielle Union as Inez and Jeremy Pope as French in Elegance Bratton’s The Inspection. Photo credit: Patti Perret. Courtesy of A24.

“That did the thing”, Pope agrees. “A lot of karaoke too! I think Gab is about that work in real life, what her family stands for and what they do and putting themselves on the front line. So I was very grateful to have Elegance there and to be working with Gab. When we were working on those scenes together, I knew that it was going to be very sensitive for Elegance because we were in spaces that were recreating his home. Then for me, I was looking at baby pictures of myself, so I was having my own personal journey, which I wasn’t really prepared for.”

Gabrielle Union as Inez and Jeremy Pope as French in Elegance Bratton’s The Inspection. Courtesy of A24.

“To be able to have a safe place in Gab and for us to continue to dig deeper in finding the humanity and trying to find understanding and reasoning was important because it’s a complicated thing. Elegance loves his mother, this movie is not about how he dislikes her. It’s a complex relationship and he would do anything for her. So that was what we were trying to explore in real time. Knowing that we were healing ourselves, Elegance was getting a piece of healing, and hopefully with this film we can heal someone out there who needs to see this.”

Jeremy Pope as French in Elegance Bratton’s The Inspection. Courtesy of A24.

Pope was conscious of how personal this story was for Bratton, “Sharing his truth comes at a cost”, adds the actor, “Once you give something away, you can’t get it back. I wanted to “Yes, and Amen with him”, meaning he put himself on the front line as a queer Black man and as an artist. He said, ‘I’m going to tell what I know really well to help bring healing to the world’. That did it for me, I wanted to be a part of that. I wanted to create space for him to feel safe to be able to do that, because ultimately if I’d had a film like this growing up, it would have changed a lot of my experiences.”

The Inspection opens in US theaters on November 18th 2022 from A24.

The Inspection writer-director Elegance Bratton with stars Jeremy Pope & Gabrielle Union
The Inspection | Official Trailer HD | A24
The Inspection | Official Poster | A24

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