Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Pre-order Book!
Pre-order Book!



MOVIES Director Ali LeRoi on his LGBT time-loop film 'The Obituary of Tunde Johnson'
by Andrew Davis

This article shared 1123 times since Sun Feb 28, 2021
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

The Obituary of Tunde Johnson is a movie with some familiar elements—but they're used to make a novel film.

The movie uses the time-loop element that's probably most popular in the film Groundhog Day. However, director Ali LeRoi's movie features the title character—a wealthy, gay Nigerian-American prep-school student (played by Steven Silver) who repeatedly meets a violent end. This movie features many issues, including mental health, racism, drug addiction, police brutality and, of course, LGBTQ acceptance.

Windy City Times: Ali, I understand that you have connections to Chicago. [He currently resides in Los Angeles.] How often do you get back, and what do you miss most about the city?

Ali LeRoi: Wow. The last time I was there was two years ago. My son and ex-wife live there, and I have a lot of family. What do I miss the most? The lakefront. I used to spend a ton of time in Hyde Park; we used to hang out at the Point [Promontory Point]. I loved being in that part of town. I could talk about the food all day long, but the lakefront was just a really peaceful place for me. There are beaches in L.A., of course, but it's a different kind of vibe; in Chicago, it's like a giant park at the lake. Summers in Chicago are beautiful—humid, but beautiful. [Laughs]

WCT: People know you from comedies [such as co-creating the TV show Everybody Hates Chris]. Was it just the challenge of doing a drama that attracted you to this project?

AL: The script came through a screenplay competition, and I was one of the judges. We looked at a lot of material, and there were other scripts that were just as good, in their own right—but this one was special because I had never seen anything like it.

When the judging process was finished, I walked away and didn't think I'd have anything else to do with it. But [co-producers] Zach [Green] and Jason [Shuman] called me and asked me if I'd be interested in directing it because I had been so passionate about the material. So it was the material itself—it's super-unique—and I hadn't had the chance to do a feature, so there was that. Also, at this point in life, I wanted to do something that would expand what I could do as an artist, as a director.

WCT: With this movie, there are a lot of issues for the viewer to absorb. Is this the type of movie that you thought the viewer might have to watch two or three times to catch them all?

AL: I did not think that. People are intuitive; when they're watching things, they're going to have these reactions. Sometimes, people might accept or reject something—but it's speaking to them, one way or another. Even if it's something they don't understand implicitly, they still feel that they understand something about the piece. But on the flip, it's a complex piece of work, and I think people might be inclined to watch it more than once because there are things that might get by you. I think the movie warrants repeated viewing because there is a lot to absorb, in part, because of the shock of where it might take you. I hope people watch it lots of times.

WCT: I don't know the sexualities of the lead actors—and, actually, don't care to. I'm just curious about where you stand regarding the hot-button topic of non-LGBTQ actors taking on LGBTQ roles?

AL: Alright—I'm going to start at the top and work my way into it.

One, in the name of art, I think that people who are creative should be free to tackle subject matter that they're interested in and in a way they see fit. It may speak to everyone, but it may speak to somebody. And while it may not answer all of the concern of immediately affected communities, if creating that art opens that door to interactions and conversations with people who aren't necessarily in that group, then it's all good.

It's The Color Purple, right? Steven Spielberg was behind The Color Purple, and people asked why he did it. It's because he could do it. So Alice Walker wrote this incredible piece of material and I'm sure there are a lot of Black people who would've liked to have been involved. When Quentin Tarentino did Django [Unchained], he got Reggie Hudlin to help walk him through this process.

A lot of times, at the outset, you have well-intentioned people doing something that they think will help—and I'm never against that. However, what we have progressed to is a space where we want to engage with people who have direct experiences with this material, in one way or another, and who are capable of executing the vision. So regarding the fact that the actors may not have disclosed certain things about themselves, if the work makes you feel like they did a great job—like I didn't Rock Hudson was gay when he was going around and kissing Doris Day. We've been watching that for decades.

The reality is that the LGBTQ+ community is having this odd reverse experience. It's not by choice that the people from this community have been placed in positions where they had to deny or obfuscate their identity in order to work—but they have proven that you don't have to be from a particular community to convincingly portray the stories from it. So that's a real thing, but it doesn't speak to the necessity and responsibility to bring it voices from those communities so things can be authentic and sensitive.

What I can tell you, without being specific, is that Stanley [Kalu, the screenwriter] and I had those voices around us, and that the material is informed because we didn't bring ego to the table and assume we could tell the story without a certain form of informational perspective. We wanted to make sure the material is handled in a way that's satisfactory to the audience.

WCT: I think Russell T. Davies [the creator of the original Queer As Folk] made waves recently by saying that only gay actors should be cast in gay roles in order to lend authenticity.

AL: I don't disagree at all. But in the reality of the work we do, a great actor wants to be able to do a great thing. It's the same argument I had as a Black writer and creator. We had that period in the '90s, when there were a bunch of Black sitcoms—but I would wonder, "Why can I write on Two and a Half Men?" I can write black-ish, but I can't write this other thing. We've always had this experience that white people have been able to captain the ships of our stories, but we have not been conversely given the same opportunity; I know of a white guy who worked on Sanford & Son. Ava [DuVernay] was able to do Selma—and, fortunately, that didn't stop her from doing A Wrinkle in Time.

I'm all for creative people have the access, option and support to tell the story that they can tell.

WCT: Side note: Thanks for having David James Elliott in this movie.

AL: He was so good, and he had a tricky role to play. He had to convincingly portray this conservative persona, but I think what attracted to the role was shifting to a guy who is different in private than he is in public. He did a fantastic job.

WCT: Going into this movie, I thought there would be different perspectives of the same set of facts—but different time lines actually have different events. Is this, in a way, a commentary on the concept of "alternative facts?"

AL: Not really. In this type of movie, there is a predetermined goal of a person trying to get to a particular place. In the time-loop function, they actually get a chance to correct the last mistake so they can get a step further.

In this film, Tunde's destination is not clear to him, so he has to understand—because he's a substance abuser—if what is happening to him is real. If it is real, why is it occurring—and what is he supposed to do about it? So he's trying to wrap his head around this thing, and it keep shifting. It's like a butterfly effect or domino effect; if you change one thing, you change the trajectory. Unfortunately, they all end up with him meeting this horrible fate—but he does keep getting further. It's a complex psychological drama in that way. You can't get ahead of him.

WCT: What do you want people to take away from this movie?

AL: What I think is the most important thing is that people can check their own responses. If watching this makes you sad, then maybe you need to find a way to express or address that. If it makes you angry, maybe you need to sit with that for a second. If you reject this outright, then you have to ask yourself why it's so problematic when it's something that's happening in the world.

I guess I want people to be introspective about why this movie had to be made, and why we were able to find six different instances that are related to what's happened in our society and that fuel our narrative about Black bodies being destroyed at the hands of law enforcement.

It would've been nice to make a comedy, but it's absolutely necessary. Stanley wrote it just before the explosion of events last summer. We made it—and it became even more relevant. We did this, and then life happened.

The Obituary of Tunde Johnson is on Video On Demand.

This article shared 1123 times since Sun Feb 28, 2021
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

SHOWBIZ Tig Notaro, films, E. Lynn Harris, Nick Jonas 2021-05-09
- Emmy- and Grammy-nominated stand-up comedian Tig Notaro (HBO's Tig Notaro: Boyish Girl Interrupted), will return to HBO this summer with the first-ever fully animated stand-up special, HBO announced. The special ...

Gay News

DANCE Hubbard Street's 'Half of Us' debuting May 20 2021-05-03
- Hubbard Street Dance Chicago's (HSDC) 43rd season will be completed with the virtual world premiere of new work by choreographer/director Robyn Mineko Williams entitled "Half of Us," on Thursday, May 20, at 7:30 p.m. The 16-minute ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ 'Master of None,' children's book, Kristen Stewart, expectant couple 2021-05-02
- Master of None is coming back—but this time, the series will focus on Lena Waithe's character, Denise, noted. Master of None, created by Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang for Netflix, starred Ansari for the first ...

Gay News

Actress Olympia Dukakis dies at 89 2021-05-01
- Olympia Dukakis—who won an Oscar for her supporting role in the 1987 hit Moonstruck and starred in Look Who's Talking and Mr. Holland's Opus as well as iterations of TV's Tales of the City—died May 1 at her home in New York City ...

Gay News

VIRTUAL CINEMA MeToo drama 'Slalom' airing at Siskel starting May 7 2021-04-29
- The Cannes-selected #MeToo drama Slalom—the debut from filmmaker Charlène Favier—will run at the Gene Siskel Film Center's Virtual Cinema starting Friday, May 7. The French movie is also currently playing ...

Gay News

Elton John AIDS Foundation Oscars pre-party raises $3M 2021-04-26
- The 29th annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards® Pre-Party hosted by Emmy- and Tony-winning actor Neil Patrick Harris alongside Sir Elton John and David Furnish, raised $3 million for the global effort to end AIDS, ...

Gay News

Exceptions the rule at 2021 Oscars 2021-04-26
- After a year that saw the motion picture industry upended by both the COVID-19 pandemic and an already shifting entertainment landscape, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences pressed on with the 93rd Annual Oscars ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ 'Joe Exotic' series, Luther Vandross, singer's announcement, star couples 2021-04-25
- Hedwig and the Angry Inch's John Cameron Mitchell has been tapped to play the title character opposite Kate McKinnon in the series Joe Exotic (working title), Deadline reported. The limited series centers on Carole Baskin (McKinnon), ...

Gay News

Netflix to debut limited series 'Halston' on May 14 2021-04-23
- On what would have been legendary fashion designer Roy Halston Frowick's 89th birthday (on April 23), Netflix stated it was honoring the visionary icon by announcing the Friday, May 14, global premiere date for the five-episode ...

Gay News

GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics hands out Dorian Awards 2021-04-19
--From a press release - LOS ANGELES, CA, April 18, 2021 — Nomadland, the spare and fact-based drama of a group of struggling Americans living off the grid; the vivid blueswoman biopic Ma Rainey's Black Bottom; the family-happy fish-out-of-water fable Minari; ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Brandi Carlile, 'Legendary,' children's book, film festival, Janet Mock 2021-04-18
- Lesbian musician Brandi Carlile memoir, Broken Horses, debuted at number one on The New York Times Best Sellers list, a press release announced. In addition to the hardback book, a very special audiobook edition of the ...

Gay News

WORLD Trans women arrested, death threats, Russian film, leader apologizes 2021-04-11
- Two transgender women facing charges of "attempted homosexuality" (as well as public indecency and not carrying identification) in a high-profile case in Cameroon will spend more than two months behind bars without a trial after a ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Trans singer, 'Pose,' Kate Winslet, Lil Nas X, Broadway 2021-04-11
- Trans femme indie-punk artist Evan Greer (she/her) released a dystopian new music video for the song "Surveillance Capitalism," a press release noted. She is using it to launch with Fight for the Future, where she ...

Gay News

Movie about art sensation born into slavery to premiere April 16 2021-04-08
- Bill Traylor: Chasing Ghosts—a film about a man who was born into slavery, and whose works became sensations in the art world—will premiere Friday, April 16, in local virtual cinemas of Music Box Theatre and Facets. ...

Gay News

Gerber/Hart hosts 'Disappeared: Chicago's Lost Lesbian Bars' screening, discussion 2021-04-06
- Gerber/Hart Library and Archives (Gerber/Hart) hosted a virtual screening of Disappeared: Chicago's Lost Lesbian Bars, a short-film documentary that Jacob Pieczynski directed. A panel discussion followed the screening. The 2017 ...


Copyright © 2021 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.








About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.