Idris Elba & Caleb McLaughlin Interview: Concrete Cowboy

We interview Concrete Cowboy stars Idris Elba and Caleb McLaughlin about their roles in the film and the father/son dynamic at the movie’s center.

Concrete Cowboy, which arrives on Netflix April 2, explores a father-son dynamic amidst a culture of cowboys. When Cole (Caleb McLaughlin) is sent to live with his estranged father Harp (Idris Elba) for the summer, he soon finds a community of Black cowboys to connect with.

Elba and McLaughlin spoke with Screen Rant about getting into character and connecting with the themes of fatherhood and family.

Caleb, can you tell me a little bit about what you wanted to bring to the role of Cole that wasn’t necessarily on the page? 

Caleb McLaughlin: Yeah, man. It was a challenge in itself, because Cole is totally different from who I am and my relationship with my father. The relationship that I had on film with Idris is very prominent in the film, and it stands out a lot, the father and son relationship. My relationship with my father is beautiful. My dad has been here from the beginning. So, that was a challenge, just having to become Cole mentally and physically.

I wanted to make sure people felt what Cole was feeling. I wanted people to see Cole when he got to Philadelphia, that this was a new experience for him. I was filming in Philadelphia for a month; I didn’t want people thinking that I was in Philadelphia, and I didn’t want people thinking I was training with horses for a month. I wanted people to feel Cole’s loss, his anger, his sadness, and his feeling lost in Philadelphia.

I had my family there. I had people around me. But I wanted people to feel that, once you saw Cole sitting in that chair in his school with the blood in his mouth, I wanted people to feel his fear. I wanted people to feel his anger. I really wanted to represent that well, and I wanted to tell and represent the story.

Idris, can you talk about the relationship that’s explored between Harp and Cole?

Idris Elba: Yeah, look, it’s a central spine of this story. There’s some common truths here. There are things that you and I both can look at that in different ways and relate to it, but the central spine was essentially the connective tissue for all of it.

I didn’t know too much about the Philadelphia stables, but I could relate because they’re trying to kick those stables down. Where I grew up in East London, they broke down the building that I was staying in and moved people in. So, I could relate to that. But Cole is isolated; he’s really isolated in that beginning of that film. And even from his father; he’s isolated from his father. His father has a huge community that is his family, and he’s more of a father to those horses in that community than he is to his own [son].

In storytelling, you start at the opposite of where you want to go. So, we really played into that, because I personally feel there is not enough stories about fatherhood on film. And when it comes to black men, as far as fathers, it’s just always of one particular lens or one particular slant. We wanted to shift that, and I feel that we did that – or hope that the audience kind of resonates with it.

Next: Watch the Concrete Cowboy Trailer

Concrete Cowboy starts streaming on Netflix on April 2, 2021.

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