(AllHipHop News) The week of June 13-15 appears to be a symbolic time period for Trevor Jackson. On 6/15 in 2012, the world got to see him in his first significant feature film role. The multi-talented entertainer played Kris McDuffy in the Disney Channel’s Let It Shine.
Six years later, the Indianapolis native returned to Atlanta to shoot his first leading role in a major studio theatrical release. Coincidentally, the forthcoming Superfly remake will hit theaters on June 13, 2018.
Jackson was hired to take on the role of Youngblood Priest, a character made famous by Ron O'Neal in the original 1972 Super Fly. That enduring blaxploitation picture transformed the Harlem drug dealer into an urban superhero for many viewers.
“It’s an absolute honor, it’s a privilege. I have no intention of trying to redo it. I’m just putting my twist on it and tell my version of how I see Priest,” Jackson relayed to me during a set visit in January. “I feel like the story of Superfly is a timeless one because it’s about coming from the bottom to the top. That’s what this film is about, and it’s done in a classy way. Priest isn’t a dirty, hateful guy. He’s a good guy and he’s doing what he has to do to survive.”
Julien “Director X” Lutz was behind the lens for the remixed adaptation of Superfly. Director X knew exactly what he was looking for when he drafted Trevor (“He had a swagger, style and look. He had something about him. So we pulled a trigger on him.”). Lutz and the 21-year-old then fused their creativity to develop a Youngblood Priest for the 2010s.
“We actually had the same idea for the character. But for me, I try to take everybody that I idolized in my life that I thought was fly and I could also be afraid of, and I tried to put that into my own version,” explained Jackson. “So whether it be the accent, the way he walks, or certain things, I wanted to try and find that line of cool and scary - you want to be like him but also wouldn’t test him.”
As I watched a nighttime party scene come together in a North Atlanta mansion, it was clear that Trevor brought a youthful, infectious energy to the room. The six-foot headliner would easily shine through the darkened space as soon as he heard “action,” but his spirited vibe did not come to a halt when the cameras stopped rolling. TJ could be heard belting out vocal runs, seen dancing to music in his head, or asking questions about his performance as the crew reset for the next shot.
“Priest is completely the opposite of me in terms of energy. I’m everywhere, all the time. So as soon as they yell ‘cut,’ I gotta let it out. Otherwise, I’ll be jumping around because that’s just me,” stated Jackson. “But I do it also because it’s easy to get tired on set and for everybody to start wearing down. So I’m like, ‘Hey, hey, hey!’ Then everybody is up. That’s been my gift and my curse throughout my life. When I was younger, it got me a lot of whoopings and it got me in a lot of trouble with girls, but now it’s helping me.”
During the filming process, his co-stars took notice of the lead actor’s approach and dedication. Jason Mitchell (Eddie) said, “Me and Trevor became brothers, instantly. I just love to see people win and a guy like that - he’s just a winner. Every team has a quarterback, and he’s the kind of guy that everybody would choose to be the quarterback. I’m really happy to be working with him.”
“Trevor is really fun. He has so much energy. He’s just fun to be around. He’s always singing the most random stuff. He likes to play around when we’re rehearsing. He likes doing things that he knows bothers me. I know he’s trying to get me to be like ‘stop!’ It’s been really fun,” recalled Andrea Londo (Cynthia).
Lex Scott Davis (Georgia) added, “Working with Trevor is so much fun. He has so much energy. I just need to steal a piece of that energy because he makes me feel very old. [laughs] He’s so live and vibrant. It’s really great. He’s fun to work off of. You always get something new with every take, something you can’t plan or rehearse. It’s awesome to see him blossom once he’s in the hair, wardrobe, and make-up. He really comes to life.”
The fashion of Superfly - similarly to Gordon Parks, Jr.’s stylish ‘72 prototype - is an essential element of the film. Antoinette Messam was charged with designing the costumes for the flick, and Trevor Jackson also provided crucial input on how Priest was presented through the clothes that he wore.
“I’m so thankful they’re not forcing me to wear anything. If I hated it, I said I hated it,” expressed Jackson. “I wanted it to be flashy but not 'costumey.' I didn’t want to wear sneakers. I only wanted to wear boots. You could tell it costs a lot of money, but he’s not trying to stunt on anybody. That’s not his goal. The fashion is amazing, but it’s not over the top. I don’t think he’s that kind of guy.”
Like the characters’ outfits, music is another inanimate cast member closely associated with the Superfly brand. The original from the 70s was accompanied by an undeniable classic soundtrack which was crafted by Soul legend Curtis Mayfield.
Director X turned to Atlanta’s Trap czar Future to front the present-day album. The chart-topping, Auto-Tuned creator of Hip Hop gems such as Beast Mode, 56 Knights, and DS2 is expected to infuse his southern-mixed potion into the body of work. Listeners may get a taste of Trevor’s voice on the musical project as well.
“I feel like he’s one of the pioneers of this generation,” said the Rough Drafts Pt. 1 singer about Future. “I’m going to try and get a couple of records on there. We gotta make it happen.”
2018’s Superfly may be the perfect vehicle for Trevor Jackson at this moment in time. Besides his underrated vocal talents possibly being displayed on a soundtrack curated by a rap superstar, the former child actor gets to show off how he’s matured at his on-screen craft. The Young Artist Award winner has come a long way from his teenage days when Let It Shine debuted that June day back in 2012.
“I’m so thankful for where my career is going in terms of choices. I started out doing guest spots on SyFy Channel and Disney Channel. Then I did American Crime which counterbalanced the Disney. After American Crime, I did Netflix’s Burning Sands,” said Trevor. “That was a lot of drama, so I was like, ‘God, I want to do something funny.’ Then I got to do Black-ish and Grown-ish. Now I’m getting to do something completely different from any character I’ve ever done which is a drug dealer. It’s been done before, but not in this way.”
Superfly is scheduled to arrive in theaters nationwide on June 13. The movie will open the 2018 American Black Film Festival in Miami Beach on June 13.