Dating back almost five years ago now, Emmy-winning director director Madeleine Sackler found herself compelled by the notion of shooting a film (or two) within a maximum security prison, collaborating with the incarcerated in her filmmaking pursuits. Cultivating a relationship with the people at Indiana’s Pendleton Correctional Facility, Sackler was able to do just that, working with hundreds of inmates over an extended period. The unique creative partnership resulted in two films: documentary It’s a Hard Truth Ain’t It, and the fictional O.G. starring Jeffrey Wright, William Fichtner and Boyd Holbrook, both of which place a necessary spotlight on incarcerated America.
In O.G., Westworld‘s Wright portrays maximum-security prison inmate Louis, who finds himself on the cusp of release after living a life behind bars for 24 years. Encountering the newly incarcerated Beech (Theothus Carter), Louis attempts to serve as a role model for the young man, while contemplating his future at this unique point in time.
At Deadline’s Tribeca Studio—appearing with Sackler and co-stars Fichtner and Boyd—Wright reflected on the rather unique experience of shooting within a maximum-security prison, giving a detailed breakdown of what the shoot was like. “It was certainly the most guerrilla exercise I’ve ever been a part of with a film crew. It was a very controlled setting [where] we moved from space to space, led by one of the administrators from the prison, and also by prison guards. We moved as a group throughout the setting, and the first time you walk through those gates and you walk into the yard, the heart is racing a bit,” the actor admitted. “There are a lot of unknowns, but gradually, you become more accustomed to it, more familiar with the movements of the place and more familiar with the guys.”
While Wright gained some level of comfort with shooting in the facilities, he was always aware of “deeper levels” to happenings in the prison, operating beyond his understanding. “You have to be cautious. I didn’t walk around with my chest out, talking a lot of sh*t,” Wright remarked. “But I think the way that we all engaged was really through a respect for the men that we were engaging with. We tried to engage in the most humane way that we possibly can, and it was necessary, because we were there to form an unlikely partnership.”
To hear more from the team behind the Tribeca-premiering O.G., click above.
The Deadline Studio at Tribeca is presented by Nespresso.