Till director, Chinonye Chukwu, recently revealed the upcoming biographical movie had a therapist on set. Based on the real-life events of the infamous lynching of 14-year-old black child, Emmett Till, the film retells the tragic story through the perspective of Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till. During the summer of 1955, Mamie sent Emmett to visit family members near Money, Mississippi. While at a local grocery store, Emmett encountered Carolyn Bryant, a 21-year-old white woman. Several days following the incident, Bryant’s husband and her half-brother abducted Emmett in the middle of the night and brutally beat and tortured the child before killing him. Till aims to celebrate Emmett’s life and chronicle Mamie’s journey following the murder of her son, from grieving single mother to educator and civil rights leader.
The upcoming film is written by Chukwu, Michael Reilly, and Keith Beauchamp, the documentarian who researched Emmett Till’s death for decades and produced the 2005 film, The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till. The movie stars The Harder They Fall‘s Danielle Deadwyler as Mamie with Jalyn Hall as Emmett and Haley Bennett as Bryant. Sister Act star and The View host, Whoopi Goldberg, rounds out the cast as Mamie’s mother, Alma Carthan.
In a recent interview with EW, Chukwu said that she employed therapists on the set of the upcoming biopic, Till. The director explained that a therapist was present every day to assist members of the film’s cast and crew in dealing with any emotionally challenging moments. Chukwu revealed that she would call a group meeting with the therapist on the morning of each shooting day to check if everyone was feeling okay and was up-to-task before filming commenced. Read what the director said below.
We had a therapist on set every day, so that was really critical. And before shooting, we definitely talked as a group with the therapist — just constantly checking in throughout the day. I’m very protective of the actors I work with, particularly when they’re children. So I was constantly reading energy and giving space and knowing that: All right, we only can do this in one take, or, We can only do this two times, that’s it. I would let the crew know that, no matter what happens, this is it. We’re not doing it again.
The children had their parents on set all the time — that was a really important bit. They had the parents and tutors and their therapists. Really letting people know and showing them that, at any point, whatever they need, we’ll provide emotionally and physically. I think that was appreciated, and there was a lot of conversation. There were times when we just had to take a pause and just stop and recalibrate. I’m not trying to rush that at all, because wellbeing is critical.
Why Therapists Should Be More Common On Hollywood Sets?
Chukwu clearly understood the need for mental health professionals when creating such an emotionally challenging film as Till. With Emmett’s murder still within living memory of many people, reliving the collective pain experienced by so many at that time will surely stir up a great deal of emotional pain. Although no physical violence will be depicted within the movie, a therapist on hand is a good call by the studio to aid anyone who may struggle with Till‘s heartbreaking subject.
With the importance of mental health finally getting more attention worldwide, Hollywood should seek to employ the services of therapists with more projects. Whether they be used to assist cast and crew on historical movies that deal with terrible tragedies, to aid actors in their recovery from challenging emotional scenes, or to help filmmakers to deal with the daily stressors of long shoots, mental health specialists can provide a wide range of support to those in need. With early reviews being positive, audiences can witness Mamie Till’s fortitude as she stood up to Jim Crow oppression to become a prominent Civil Rights leader when Till premieres in theaters October 14.