Photo: Chris Pizzello, Chris Pizzello / Invision / AP
NEW YORK (AP) – Daveed Diggs was busy. Too busy. The actor was eight shows a week as Jefferson / Lafayette in the Broadway sensation "Hamilton" and did not answer his emails.
So there was only one thing his literary partner and creative soulmate Rafael Casal could do: move around the country and pitch a camp in Digg's dressing room.
"Every night he was only in the break," laughs Diggs. "He had to move to New York for us to get a high level of creative output."
With the opening of this week's "Blindspotting", their rap-infused feature film debut in Oakland, California, the duo buys Buzz for the screen chemistry that gives the movie its energy. This chemistry, in turn, is fueled by nearly two decades of friendship and creative synergy that both men call remarkable.
"As long as I know him, I never had an idea that I did not do it, and that includes character choices in 'Hamilton'," said Diggs, 36, recently about tea in New York. "I do not have a lot of things that do not affect him, and even if they're not by name, they're realistic."
An Casal, 32, a speaker artist, what is most rare is how versatile the partnership is. "They choose their partners in the trenches because they make you better," he says. "What's unique about our dynamics is that it's cross-media – film, music, theater, television – it's not even a one-time thing, because many people go through life and it never happens."
Although Blindspotting, directed by Carlos Lopez Estrada, is a buddy movie – both funny and tragic – it's also about one place: Oakland, a city both men love. In the Bay Area, they met for the first time at Berkeley High School. They did not immediately become friends because Casal was a freshman and Diggs a senior. "That might as well be a gap of 50 years," jokes Casal.
Diggs went to Brown University, where he pursued a career and studied theater. When he returned, Casal, who had made a name for himself in HBO's Def Poetry Jam, opened a recording studio and needed artists.
"Someone played his music to me, I loved it, it came and we just made it," says Casal. "From then on all I remember is that he was around."
Almost a decade ago, they began work on "Blindspotting," the story of Collin (Diggs), the three days probationary for an act of violence incident, and Miles (Casal), his elusive, unpredictable best friend. Collin witnesses a shootout of an unarmed black man by the police; They'll have to walk through the next few days together, each in his own way, in an Oakland that's changing fast. The film addresses subjects such as race, economy, gentrification and friendship.
Already in 2009, when they started the project, Oscar Grant had just been killed by a San Francisco transit officer. "His face was everywhere," says Diggs. "There were rallies and protests and riots." It became a key element in early designs.
The couple wondered how their idea would fly. "It's a tough sale, a racing-political comedy drama that's in verse," says Casal. "But it's the movie we wanted to do."
The project was almost once made, and for various reasons over the years not. Meanwhile, their lives changed.
"In the early days we were both huddled together on a laptop," says Diggs. "Long, the I-5 goes up and down between Oakland and LA, trying to impress (producers Jess and Keith Calder) and pretending we know how to write a script."
Casal recalls nights in LA "in one of our We tried to pretend that we were not so poor that we had to sleep in our cars."
It seemed like the movie was about to happen when suddenly Lin-Manuel Miranda's "Hamilton" came on Diggs. They thought it would be a quick project for a few months. It turned out that – well, "Hamilton".
Diggs won a Tony Award 2016 and left the show next month. A whole range of possibilities, including the "Black Ish" of television, expected. At the beginning of 2017 Casal was at home and saw "Moonlight" the Oscar. He was so happy. "I texted one of our producers and said, 'I wish we'd made OUR & # 39; moonlight & # 39; and then they said,' What if we could do it now? 'And I was like, I do not know, Diggs is really famous and really busy. "
But it turned out that Diggs, who was involved in at least four projects, had exactly 22 days off this June. "You know the script is not finished, right?" He told Casal, who suggested that he could move to LA and shout it out by calling Diggs with updates every night. "It sounded like a crazy venture to me," says Diggs. But he was there. He adds, "There is no one else I would trust to write rapeseed for."
The duo makes it clear that "Hamilton" was not the reason for the creation of the film, but that it interrupted things. But Digg's growing fame has made it much easier to sell the movie. "I think my name is opening doors now," says the actor. "Many more people will see it, which is great."
The film was shown on Sundance's opening day. What was most enjoyable, say the two men, is how eager people discuss it afterwards – and argue. "The best works of art are the ones you come away from and want to talk about," says Diggs. "We would have been disappointed if everyone had gone with exactly the same feeling."
The two have much more to do. "I think we just appreciate it," says Casal about the partnership.
"Someone called us Platonic partners," laughs Diggs. "It's a pretty apt description."