Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Justin Bartha Was Proud to Personify White Fragility in Atlanta

Must Read

Justin Bartha wasn’t intimidated by the prospect of becoming the white face of reparations on season four of Atlanta. In fact, he was over the moon about it. “I mean, honestly, this is going to sound really odd, but I was so, like, filled with joy and gratitude that I was given this opportunity,” he says.

In the season’s second standalone episode “The Big Payback,” Bartha stars as Marshall, an average white man whose life is upended when descendants of slaves his family owned knock on his door and demand restitution, specifically $3 million dollars. As demand for reparations suddenly sweep the country, Marshall watches as white people all around him come face to face with the legacy of slavery and their role in it.

“I wanted to make sure that he was an everyman,” Bartha says of Marshall. “He was a person that everyone watching—no matter what their skin color or background was—could empathize with a little bit.” Bartha hopped on the phone with V.F. to chat about Atlanta easter eggs, dining in Brooklyn, and the ghost of slavery.

How did you get involved with this season of Atlanta?

It’s not the most exciting story. The legendary casting director Alexa Vogel reached out to my reps to see if I would read with her. I jumped at the chance because I was already a huge fan of the show. I thought that there was no way that I would be lucky enough to get involved with the show, and then it worked out.

Can you tell me a little bit about Marshall? He’s not a super conservative or liberal guy—he’s sort of an everyman.

You hit it right on the head. My main idea—my instinct from the get go—was that Marshall is a man in the middle. He is a passive participant in life. He doesn’t opt in, which again, is in the script. Like most in the middle, he hasn’t done a deep dive and considered his own privilege. He hasn’t had to consider his societal reality—he’s just a guy trying to get by. He’s struggling with his personal life, with his ex-wife and his daughter. His work is not exactly inspiring, but he’s going about it, being a cog in the machine.

It was important [for Marshall] not to have political leanings. He skews a little liberal, but he doesn’t have strong beliefs, political or religious. His social opinions on the surface are to respect everyone, as I think most people in the middle do. He’s probably slightly conflict averse. He lets life happen to him. That was the jumping-off point—the kind of foundation of who this guy was.

I loved the cookie metaphor, with Marshall absentmindedly stealing a cookie at the beginning of the episode. It seemed to really underscore the central argument of the episode and of the case for reparations: “How did you get the things that you have?”

The cookie really is the key. When [Marshall] takes that cookie from the coffee shop it seems silly, but the more I broke down the script I found three different metaphors to unpack there. There’s the privilege of him being able to eat the cookie without any thought to what could happen to him. There’s the actual [metaphor of] what goes into the making of the cookie. And then there’s the grander theft, the theft of slavery. The journey of the cookie is about where this guy is [in terms of] considering those three different levels of metaphors. He doesn’t consider any of them at first, and then we get to watch as the three different metaphors sink into this character as he goes along.

The episode felt somewhat like a horror film to me. What was the most harrowing part of filming it?

The main thing that I got from the actual filming of it is the working relationship with [director] Hiro Murai. I can’t sing his praises enough. I think he’s one of the greatest working today. He directs the first 4 episodes of the season. Even though two of them are bottle episodes, they do all connect to each other—especially the two bottle episodes, with the first one setting the scene on Lake Lanier where you have one character who’s in this episode as well. I thought the “horror” tone was a little more overt in the first scene of that first episode. Then stylistically, it shifts a bit when you get to each new episode, which I think shows you how amazing Hiro is. Our [episode] is… I don’t totally see the horror element. Hiro is like Paul Thomas Anderson, David Lynch. There’s a surrealist bend and off-center skew.

Read More

- Advertisement -spot_img
- Advertisement - Antennas Direct - Antennas Reinvented
- Advertisement -
Latest News

I’m a Fitness Editor, And Here Are My Favorite Prime Day Workout Gear Deals

These brands rarely go on sale, but they're getting serious discounts on Amazon today...Read More
- Advertisement - Yarden: ENJOY $20 OFF of $150 or more with code 20YD150

More Articles Like This

- Advertisement -spot_img