EXCLUSIVE: Birth of a Nation filmmaker Nate Parker has resurfaced and is attached to direct Black & Blue, a feature based on the life of decorated LAPD detective Ralph Waddy. Parker is rewriting a script originally penned by Jim McGrath.
Waddy’s life rights was optioned by ForM.B Entertainment’s Steven Jensen who will also produce along with Darren Enenstein, Shondrella Avery (who will also act in it), Adam R. Sanders and Lenny Rosenberg. They are working to start the picture in July in Los Angeles.
The project is the first for Parker since he was embroiled in the scandal of rape allegations from his college days; that news surfaced during the release of Birth of a Nation.
Black & Blue will revolve around Ralph Waddy’s life, a true hero at the LAPD, during what was the most racially charged period in the city’s history as it dealt with the Watts riots, Robert Kennedy’s assassination at the Ambassador Hotel, the rise of the Black Panthers, the capture of the Skid Row Slasher and the Manson Murders (which Waddy connected to Charles Manson and his followers). Waddy was involved in investigating all of these and other high-profile crimes.
The story will also delve into Waddy’s battle to get his father’s approval while struggling between being black or blue in a racially charged time. Whether it was going undercover in the Black Panthers or finding the Skid-Row Slasher and even to the murders tied to the Manson family, no one (including his father) gave him the credit he earned and deserved.
Waddy was a former Marine who was a natural in ferreting things out. He had what was known as “a blue sense.” However, his work did not come without fighting racism — both in the force and on the outside — which was alive and fierce in the 1960s. It was only after he stood toe to toe against white supremacists and Charles Manson himself that he earned a detective shield, becoming the first black Los Angeles cop to receive one.
Waddy was so well respected in the force, that he inspired other men and women to become police officers. His longtime partner Lt. Jimmy Grayson told Deadline: “Ralph was a very sharp, very smart man. He was complex in a way. Complicated in a certain way. He had his own way of thinking and doing things in life. He and I were very close. It was almost like brothers. He would confide in me in certain things.”
Grayson worked with Waddy as partners from 1975 to the late 1980s. “You know, we never had an argument. It was such a pleasure working with him. We were involved in a lot of crimes with notoriety that sometimes even resulted in shootings. He was a very good friend to me and a very good cop.” When they were partnered, Waddy and Grayson were the same age. In one shooting incident, Grayson saved Waddy’s life.
Grayson noted that Waddy was friends with LAPD Police Chief Darryl Gates, knew a lot of important people, attorneys, movie stars and actors (like John Amos). He said his old partner Waddy had a way of getting to know the head person and talking his way in. “He was very proud of being in the Robbery Homicide division. He had a way of talking and he was able to get and was very proud of his 211 badge.” He said Waddy was also very athletic.
“And everything that he bought,” Grayson said, “would be top of the line. Everything he did, he researched to make sure he got the best. He would purchase these things and didn’t matter what it was, it would be six months to a year later, and he would say, ‘Hey, I have a fire sale going on’ and he’d sell it and go get something else top of the line.” He said also Waddy would end conversations with the Marine’s motto, “He would always say ‘Semper Fi, Brother.’ Semper Fi” as he was so proud of being a Marine. “He was an amazing guy.”
Waddy passed away last August, leaving behind a wife and three kids.
The next generation at the LAPD, Marcella Winn, who grew up in South Los Angeles and became one of the top detectives in the Robbery/Homicide division in later years, inherited Waddy’s shotgun which she said was a great honor. “He was a great guy, always smiling,” remembered Winn. “He was an outstanding detective with an outstanding work ethic that he passed on to the younger generation. He was a legend.”
Winn then laughed and said, “And oh my God, Jimmy Grayson and Ralph Waddy together! I can’t even tell you all of the stories. They kicked ass! Together, they solved some of the most high-profile cases the city ever had. Those two legends together definitely defined the Best of of the Best of the LAPD.”
Parker is repped by CAA, Anonymous Content and Hirsch Wallerstein Hayum Matlof and Fishman.