“It exposes race as an economic construct and exposes the fact that we’re all interconnected not just to each other but to our history,” said Mudbound director Dee Rees, speaking on the contemporary message of the period film at Deadline’s The Contenders. “There is no ‘then’ or ‘will be,’ there’s only now. Everything is now. We can’t dismiss our history and say we are a product of our times. We are the times and we decide what kind of nation we are going to be.”

Rees was joined onstage by some of the film’s stars including Mary J. Blige, Carey Mulligan, and Garrett Hedlund. Moderated by Deadline’s Joe Utichi, the cast was asked about what drew them to the project. Hedlund, who was raised on a farm, found familiarity with the piece. “The story deals a lot with the family trials of trying to have a successful farm and the pain and the hardships that come with that. I had a lot to play on.” Per Blige, is was the story “being so relative to where we are today” as well as the portrayal of a free black man after WWII, which made “it was very important to get involved.”

Added Mulligan: “It was a fascinating period of history that I’ve never really thought about. War has historically been a catalyst for social change. This idea of black men going to fight and die for their country and then coming back to a society that hasn’t changed at all and was equally disdainful and unaccepting was so bizarre to really think about…so that was really interesting.”

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Rob Latour/Deadline/REX/Shutterstock (9188860h) Elizabeth Marvel Netflix 'The Meyerowitz Stories' panel, THE CONTENDERS 2017, Los Angeles, USA - 04 Nov 2017
Latour/Deadline/REX/Shutterstock

In addition to Mudbound, Netflix brought along actress Elizabeth Marvel, to speak on its original film, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), written and directed by Noah Baumbach. It revolves around three adult siblings, played by Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller and Marvel, contending with the long shadow their strong-willed artist father (portrayed by Oscar-winner Dustin Hoffman) has cast over their lives. “The amazing thing about the script is that it’s 170 pages of dialogue and that is exactly what we shot,” Marvel said. “Nothing was cut.” Marvel shared. The word-heavy project required a month of rehearsal for the cast in order to organically “get to know each other in creating this family dynamic.”

Marvel, who plays the soft-spoken, timid Jean Meyerowitz, said she wasn’t able to find her character right away. “It took a while… Normally I’m asked to play women who are very commanding, said Marvel, who played President Elizabeth Keane on season six of Showtime’s Homeland. “Jean is a completely different kind of animal. It awesome as an actor when you’re asked to do something you don’t know how to do.”