Sometimes the most difficult aspect for people who are fighting for their survival is knowing who they can truly trust to support them. That’s certainly the case for the protagonist in the new action thriller, ‘Blood Brother.’ The character, who’s played by musician-actor Trey Songz, has turned against the life of crime he led with his friends as an adolescent to become a respected member of his community. But he’s ultimately learning that no seemingly corrupt transgression truly goes unpunished.
Michael Finch and Karl Gajdusek wrote ‘Blood Brother,’ which was directed by John Pogue. The film is now playing in theaters and On Demand, courtesy of Lionsgate.
‘Blood Brother’ follows the lives of four friends, who grew up together in an impoverished area of an urban region. The group regularly found themselves in trouble when they were teenagers, as they committed crimes from vandalism to armed robbery. Their lives were changed forever when they entered a chance encounter with the attempted robbery of an armored truck. After the deaths of the robbers and all but one of the guards, the teens walked away from the scene with $3 million, and the most violent of the friends killed the only surviving witness. As a result, he was arrested and sent to prison, while his friends went on with their lives.
Fifteen years later, Sonny (Songz), who served as the leader of the group of teens, became a decorated police detective, but his marriage to his wife, Megan (Tanee McCall), fell apart as a result. When Jake (Jack Kesy), who took the fall for his friends when they were teens, is set to be released from prison, Sonny picked him up.
The duo later reconnect with their other two friends to split the stolen money, and the group appears to be on good terms again. That all changes when Jake embarks on another crime and goes on the run, which leads Sonny to question why his old friend able to turn his life around.
Songz generously took the time recently to talk about filming ‘Blood Brother’ during an exclusive interview in New York City. Among other things, the actor discussed that he was interested in portraying the protagonist in the crime drama because he’s multi-dimensional, and is loyal to his friends, family and career. He also cherished the positive direction that Pogue regularly offered to the cast and crew on the set.
The interview began with Songz explaining why he was drawn to play Sonny in ‘Blood Brother.’ He noted that the character “has a lot of dimensions to him. He has to be a bread winner and a protector. He’s also trying to be a friend. There are so many layers when you have friends in your childhood, and then you grow apart. I’ve seen that happen to me, personally,” the actor admitted.
“I’ve had to distance myself from people. When people see you go on a certain trajectory, it can become an envious thing, like how Jake and Sonny have a love-hate relationship with each other. Sonny wants to make the best of it, and Jake wants to obliterate everything that doesn’t involve him. He sees Sonny has a family and wants to move on. He also sees that Sonny is a cop, and he doesn’t like that. That interested me about the film,” the performer also mentioned.
What also interested Songz about ‘Blood Brother’ is the fact that Sonny “is a black man, and he’s the savior. I feel like if this movie was made a decade ago, the roles would have been reversed.” the actor added that “I also liked that (production companies) Codeblack and WWE, who I’m a fan of, and Lionsgate, who I’ve worked with before, were involved. So it just looked like a project that I wanted to be a part of,” the actor then noted.
There were some overall elements in Sonny that the performer related to while he was filming the movie. “Having success from where I’m from means that I’ve had to let go of some friends, who I told that we should leave the relationship behind. I like to say that it’s not about where you’re from, but where you’re going, especially in the black community. As we excel and achieve things, we worry so much about what people at home will think. We worry about being accepted by the people we grew up with,” Songz explained. “When you see things and evolve and grow, you’re supposed to change and want better for yourself.
“So that’s something that definitely resonated with me, as did the loyalty that’s within Sonny. He knows that Jake isn’t good, but the love that he has for him in his heart won’t let him go,” the performer added.
With Sonny being the protagonist in ‘Blood Brother,’ Songz made his first lead starring role, after appearing as supporting characters in such films as ‘Texas Chainsaw 3D‘ and ‘Baggage Claim.’ He discussed what the experience of transitioning from his supporting acting roles into the protagonist in his new movie was like. “It was intimidating,” he admitted. As the lead actor, he had to “set the tone for everyone in the cast and crew. So for me, it was all about preparation. I freaked out over (learning) the lines. There were some parts (of the script) where my lines took up the whole page!,” the performer noted with a laugh. “So I sat with my acting coach, and she said, ‘Don’t worry about the lines; they’ll come to you.’ Surely enough, they did.”
Songz filmed the crime drama two years ago, “so thinking about those emotions now is funny. I didn’t tell anybody this, but I would lay in my room when I was supposed to be asleep, and I would run over the lines over and over again.”
The first day on the set is a moment that the actor cherishes. “We shot one of the most action-packed scenes of the movie. John, the director, said ‘I hate to do this to you, but we’re going to be shooting a bit out of order. We’re going to jump right into this scene, and you’re going to be wrestling with R-Truth from WWE, so we’re going to need you to turn the intensity up. But it was fun.”
Further speaking about creating the physicality for his portrayal of Sonny, the performer noted that being a part of the action was always something that he has wanted to do. “It’s easy, because you’re not really acting; you’re really just moving. It raises your heart rate, so it was really fun and easy to do.”
With the drama being directed by Pogue, like Songz also previously mentioned, the actor cherished the experience of collaborating with the filmmaker on developing his portrayal of Sonny. “John is such a good soul. He very seldomly says anything negative. He finds the sweetest way to tell people that they’re doing something wrong,” the performer revealed.
“If you’re doing something well, he’ll really have your back. We had this running joke on the set that whenever we did something well, John would say, ‘That was f**king perfect. Now let’s do it again!’ We’d all be like, ‘What?!?’ He’d say, ‘Well, if it’s perfect, we have to see if we can get it better.’ But he was very encouraging and sensitive to a creative person’s thought process. He’d pull anyone aside, even if they had the smallest role, and have a conversation with them alone; he wouldn’t let the room know that he thought something was terrible, which I appreciated,” Songz appreciatively added.
The performer then discussed what his experience of also collaborating with the rest of the cast was like, particularly in developing Sonny’s relationships with his friends. “Jack and I did a lot of rehearsals before we began filming. There was a tricky scene with a merry-go-round, for which we had to coordinate our placement, and how we would move,” he noted.
“There was also preparation with the New Orleans police department, during which time we learned how to handle a weapon, enter a room and approach a suspect. We also learned the different codes,” the actor further shared. He added that he “flew my acting coach in for two weeks before we began filming, so the preparation was helpful.”
Songz then followed up on his experience of filming on location in Louisiana. “We shot in the Algiers section of New Orleans. We’d like to thank the community, because they welcome us, and were very mindful and respectful…I would take pictures with people, and they didn’t post anything with the outfits from the film. They would just come out and watch us shoot, and the whole community just embraced us. We filmed within a 10-block radius for the whole 30-day shoot.”
With ‘Blood Brother’ now playing in select theaters and On Demand, the performer feels the VOD platform is beneficial for independent films like this one. “I love this distribution model. The new intake of movies is all done digitally, from Amazon Prime to iTunes and all cable services. There are also all these apps on your phone and tablet, which is helpful, because people are living their lives on the go. It’s very special to me to have that instant availability to all of my fans, because not everybody has the time to go to the theater. They can watch movies in their rooms or on their way to work. So it’s amazing that we’re releasing the film in duality.”