(AllHipHop Features) Dallas Jackson has steadily been making a name for himself in film and T.V**.** He co-created and executive produced the BET drama Rebel and has a slew of projects that he’s working on. I spoke with Dallas and we talked about his love of classic horror films, his work with The RZA and the late John Singleton, and his latest slasher film on Netflix, Thriller.
AllHipHop: How did you first become interested in making films?
Dallas Jackson: Since I was a kid, I always loved movies, and TV. I was that kid that when my mom wanted to know what time the shows comes on. I could tell her, Highway To Heaven comes on at eight, after that, The Jeffersons come on channel two at 9:30. I was the T.V. Guide. I used to go the movies by myself all the time as a kid.
So, it's interesting that I saw this article that I did when I was in high school in the Rocky Mountain News, I'm from Denver. They asked me what I wanted to when I grew up. I was like, “I want to be Robert Townsend and Spike Lee.” I just saw that the other day. I was like, “Man, it's crazy. The dreams that God places in our hearts.”
I started out writing because writing is the key to everything that I love. Early on, I learned that by reading about Steven Spielberg and he said, “If you want to make it in this business, you have to be a writer. If you want to get deep in the business, you have to write.”
AllHipHop: So, when you to Howard, you’re already know what you wanted to do?
Dallas Jackson: That’s always been my mission since college. I applied to USC, Howard, and Morehouse as my backup school knowing I wanted to do T.V. I swam in high school and Howard gave me a little bit of money to be on the swim team. Howard had a Film and Television program, in the School of Communication. That led me down the path of studying on another level. That was back when Spike Lee was popping, Robert Townsend was popping and, you know, it was it was a good time to see that being a Black filmmaker was possible.
AllHipHop: Speaking of directors, you had a great partnership with the late John Singleton. How did you two connect?
Dallas Jackson: Singleton was my brother. It’s a crazy story but I’m a give you the short version: I wanted to remake Penitentiary, the Leon Isaac Kennedy films. Once, I was talking to him on the phone and about the project and he was like, “I'm gonna go to this Oscar party for Leon Daniel’s film The Butler. Do you want to go? I was like, “Hell yeah.” So, we get there and there's a lot of movie people. There were studio executives and even Sharon Stone was there. Singleton happened to be there. Leon introduced us. He told us that we should be cooking up something and should get to know each other. He didn't know who I was, but we struck up a conversation. I think I knew enough people and had done enough in the business, just in terms of writing and meetings, and that he figured I was legit. Then Singleton asked if I wanted to go to this Weinstein party he was going to for the Oscars. We went to that party and we bonded, drank, talked about movies, T.V. shows and executives we didn’t like. I told him I would love to work together, and he asked me to send him a project. So, after a week, I sent him a project I’d been developing with my wife called Rebel.
AllHipHop: I really loved Rebel. I thought it was a great drama.
Dallas Jackson: We loved it too. John really took it underneath his wing and we took it to a company called Marvista, a T.V. production company and they made us a deal to let John develop the script further and executive produce with my wife and I.
So, we shot it. We had nibbles here and there, but BET wanted to do a pilot. Then that pilot, extended to a two-hour movie. They wanted to know if John would with direct and his schedule just opened because he was beginning to develop Snowfall. They gave us eight more episodes. We we’re proud of the show, man, it was really good. We really found a great star in Danielle Truitt and we had a great cast with Method Man, Mykelti Williamson, and Giancarlo Esposito.
We got caught up in a bit of regime change at BET which was the reason why we believe the show didn't come back because former president of the network left and the new one came in and you know, somebody new comes in, they want to do what they want to do, you know, not the old stuff. But they we were proud of the show and my wife developing a show at BET now.
AllHipHop: How did you link up with the RZA?
Dallas Jackson: I had a deal with NBC to produce a pilot of Eddie Griffin. One day after a meeting at NBC, Eddie took me to party at Quintin Tarantino’s house. So, we get there, and it was like cognac party, Sly Stallone was there.
At some point, I introduced myself to RZA. We started talking about martial arts movies and action movies. He found out that I was remaking the Last Dragon at Sony I had just got the rights to this title from Berry Gordy. He was like, “Man, you gotta let me be a part of it.” I was like, “I would be honored if you would work with me.” So, we exchanged numbers.
He came to the office and we just continue to bond and build a friendship from there. And we ended up selling the Last Dragon to Sony and just continued from there. Even though that has gotten made yet we forge a relationship, like let's figure out more stuff we can do. One of them was Ghost Dog 2 and Thriller.
AllHipHop: Your latest film Thriller definitely lives up to its name. How did you come up with the concept and land the deal with Netflix?
Dallas Jackson: The crazy thing is man, Thriller, which had a different title before was something that I had developed like 15 years ago. Executives were like, “I don't know, where's the white kid? “Black folks don’t go to see horror movies like that.” “Is it a comedy?” They gave me all the excuses of why I wouldn’t work.
My idea was like, look at the Scream franchise, the I Know What You Did Last Summer franchise, and the Scary Movie franchise which all did well. I thought, “Why isn’t there a serious horror movie starring kids of color?”
Blumhouse has read my Last Dragon Script and I sat with the president. At that time, they were finishing up Get Out and they knew that they had something special. I pitched them the idea of Thriller and I have continuously been working on Thriller throughout the year. I think things like Trayvon Martin, issues like bullying, and never seeing these kinds of movies with Black or Latino youths all started to just kind of like make this project even more relevant for me. So, when I sat down with longhouse and told them about it, they really responded. And they thought I was pitching it, and I was like, No, I have a script. They read it and really responded well and asked if I'd be willing to let them give me some notes on it and I was totally open.
When you work with Blumhouse, you want them to put their spin on it. Then they suggested directing it. I was like, “Let me think about that but I'm down.” Rebel helped me with that, you know, being on set, watching all the different directors, studying, working with John, and really borrowing a lot of what he was schooling me to and showing me. In directing that movie, I applied everything I had learned over the years. It was God’s timing.
AllHipHop: Thriller has such a great cast Jessica Allain, Vanessa A. Williams, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Mykelti Williamson, Big Boy, and Tequan Richmond.
Dallas Jackson: Big Boy did that as favor to me. Kim Hardin did all the casting. She was the casting for all of Singleton’s movies, 2 Fast 2Furious, and she put Tyrese in his first film. She cast Tarij P. Henson and Ludacris in Hustle and Flow and she cast Rebel. She really did me a solid. So, you know, she knows how to find gems. Even with the legends were like, “Hey, can you come do this for a few days?” Then they will say yes. Which was great because everybody's loved the idea of an urban horror film.
AllHipHop: What other projects do you have in the works?
Dallas Jackson: I’m excited about remaking Sudden Death, the Jean-Claude Van Damme movie from the 80’s with a brother as the star. That’s gonna be crazy.