- The Personal Back Story Driving ‘They Cloned Tyrone’
- Exploring Racial Stereotypes and Concerns
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The Personal Back Story Driving ‘They Cloned Tyrone’
By | July 23, 2023
Juel Taylor, known for his work as a writer on mainstream films like “Creed II” and “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” has stepped into the director’s chair for the first time with his film “They Cloned Tyrone.” This original story, streaming on Netflix, delves into heady questions about structural racism, personal autonomy, and the search for meaning. In a recent interview, Taylor shared the personal origins of the story, how he played with racial stereotypes, and his influences in creating this genre-bending film.
The Origin of ‘They Cloned Tyrone’
Taylor revealed that the idea for “They Cloned Tyrone” came about during a burst of creativity in 2017. He and his writing partner, Tony Rettenmaier, were working on an episode of the show “Raising Dion” for Macro, the company that produced “Tyrone.” While working on the sequel “Creed II” in 2018, they pitched and sold the movie.
The original idea for the story came from Taylor’s desire to create a mystery, a “bootleg Scooby-Doo” where the detectives are inadequate yet uniquely equipped. This idea sparked a joke between Taylor and Rettenmaier: “A pimp, a prostitute, and a drug dealer walk into a bar. What if we made them the heroes?” The character of Fontaine, a small-time drug dealer facing an identity crisis, emerged when Taylor reconnected with a friend who had gone through a life-altering experience.
Taylor’s perspective shifted when his friend revealed that he had been dealing with depression during their college years. This revelation sparked thoughts about blame, responsibility, and circumstances beyond one’s control. The elements of the movie, therefore, revolve around a character overcoming circumstances that are genuinely beyond his control.
Thinking in Genre and Film Influences
As a filmmaker, Taylor shared that he thinks in terms of mood and tone, often inspired by songs or scores. For “They Cloned Tyrone,” he was influenced by ’80s R&B and funk, as well as Southern rap. In terms of film influences, Taylor mentioned “The Truman Show,” “They Live,” “The Matrix,” “The Manchurian Candidate,” “Anaconda,” “Jackie Brown,” “Boogie Nights,” and “The Big Lebowski.” He looked to these films for inspiration in capturing the tone and world-building of his own.
Taylor’s Journey to Filmmaking
Taylor initially aspired to pursue video game design, studying digital arts and sciences at the University of Florida. However, he discovered that he wasn’t a great art student. It was during this time that he made a music video inspired by Gnarls Barkley’s song “Crazy” and found success and fulfillment in filmmaking. This experience led him to shift his focus and pursue a career in film.
Exploring Racial Stereotypes and Concerns
Setting and Cultural References
“They Cloned Tyrone” takes place in a fictional Southern neighborhood called The Glen, which bears similarities to Taylor’s own upbringing in the South. Taylor explained that The Glen’s portrayal captures the essence of many Southern communities that lack resources and infrastructure, giving them a lingering ’80s vibe.
Incorporating Racial Stereotypical Ideas
Incorporating elements of racial stereotypes in the conspiracy plot, the movie references fried chicken, grape drink, and perm cream. According to Taylor, these references were approached with a sense of fun and a desire to deconstruct stereotypes while also walking a tightrope between absurd plot points and darker undertones. Taylor acknowledged that some viewers may feel uncomfortable with these portrayals but believed it was necessary to explore these subjects. He emphasized that the intent was to make the film entertaining while sparking reflection and challenging preconceptions.
When asked about concerns regarding promoting negative images of Black people or passing judgment on the culture depicted in the film, Taylor acknowledged that these concerns are inescapable. He understands that some viewers may have an uncomfortable response to certain imagery or themes. However, Taylor firmly believes in the importance of exploring these subjects and making peace with the varying interpretations that audiences may have. He hopes that viewers will engage with the story and characters, allowing them to see the deconstruction of stereotypes and the complexity beneath the surface. Taylor also emphasized that he does not want to dictate a singular interpretation, as everyone’s experiences and perspectives differ.
Juel Taylor’s directorial debut, “They Cloned Tyrone,” represents a significant shift in his career as he delves into deeper themes and genres. Through the personal origins of the story, the exploration of racial stereotypes, and his influences in film, Taylor crafts a film that aims to entertain while challenging preconceived notions and sparking thoughtful reflection. “They Cloned Tyrone” serves as a testament to Taylor’s ambition and ability to tackle complex ideas in the realm of mainstream popcorn entertainment.
<< photo by ALLAN FRANCA CARMO >>
The image is for illustrative purposes only and does not depict the actual situation.
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