In just a little more than two weeks, audiences will see something they’ve likely never witnessed on screen before with the release of The Harder They Fall. The film from Jeymes Samuel centers Black men and women in the west not as subservient beings, but as gender-equal, gun-toting cowboys who take, provide, protect, and, most of all, answer to no one.
It’s a type of representation that was foreign even to one of the film’s stars, Regina King, who told ESSENCE on the red carpet for the LA premiere of the film, “I didn’t consider that that many of us existed as Black cowboys just because we’ve been omitted from that part of history in such a blatant way.”
Though Tina Knowles-Lawson and her husband Richard Lawson knew Black cowboys existed — they’re friends with real-life cowboy and actor Glynn Turman — their persistent omission from narratives, as King explained, has been equally disturbing to them.
“We always talk about Black cowboys’ roles in movies have been so small so to see them be kickass cowboys, I’m so excited, Knowles-Lawson told us. “I’ve never seen Jay and the people involved, the the producer, James Lassiter, Jeymes, the director, they have all been so passionate about this project so I knew it was going to be awesome.”
Reflecting on this moment he’s created, Samuel told us he felt particularly grounded on his big night. “We’re here; there’s noting otherworldly about it,” he said. “We’re here because we deserve to be here. We’re in this story because we deserve to be in this piece.”
Speaking specifically to the inclusion of strong Black female characters like King’s Trudy Smith, Zazie Beetz who stars as Stagecoach Mary, and Danielle Deadwyler who plays Cuffee, Samuel explained he included those women because, they too, are deserving.
“The strongest people I’ve ever met in my life were Black women. If you take this out of the narrative, on a basic root level, you’ve actually ruined the swag,” he said. “You can have so much more if you just obey the truth.”
Watch our full red carpet coverage in the video above. The Harder They Fall premiers in select theaters October 22 and on Netflix November 3.