Hulu’s newest mystery drama, Saint X, is a multi-timeline drama that explores and upends the typical “missing white girl” crime story while examining how a young woman’s mysterious death during an idyllic Caribbean vacation creates a traumatic ripple effect that permanently alters the lives of two Black locals and eventually pulls her surviving sister into a dangerous pursuit of the truth.
Josh Bonzie and Jayden Elijah star as Gogo and Edwin, two resort workers that become enmeshed with the Thomas family, visiting the tropical island from Westchester NY while their eldest daughter Allison is on break from her first year of college at Princeton.
ESSENCE took a moment to chat with the two young actors ahead of their show’s Hulu streaming premiere, to talk all things that went into portraying the mystery, accusations against Black men, and male friendships onscreen.
It’s very hard to avoid spoilers in this series, as it takes numerous unexpected twists and turns from the outset. You each portray characters who, in this type of narrative, typically wouldn’t have so big of a voice. What was it like to express the layers of these characters and provide more nuance to these men who had the finger pointed at them in an un-provable case?
Bonzie: It’s an honor to get to play underrepresented people in general. Then to be [playing someone] blamed for something that’s so detestable and so horrific, and internalizing that in order to really play the characters in an honest and truthful way, it was a challenge. I won’t lie.
But that’s a story that I think needs to be told because it happens quite a bit, the false accusations of Black men. And so I think starting there and then kind of figuring out how we were going to navigate the story was the main focus for me.
Elijah: Similarly for me, it’s very heavy, really. And you’d opened Twitter or Instagram, and you see another case of a murdered Black man or police-brutality incident or just another accusation or someone exonerated, that they hadn’t actually done something previously. And so it’s just so sad how this story is still so relevant. So while shooting, that would be a thing to grapple with. That’s a lot of pressure, but a massive privilege to have that pressure as well.
Aside from the incident at the center of the story, you two really get a chance to display a Black, male friendship in a way isn’t often shown on camera. Can you describe what it was like expressing that type of connection on screen?
Elijah: It was great. I think it was really just working with Josh in the moment, obviously under the guise of our characters. But really just exploring with him what our dynamic is. When I’m Edwin and he’s Gogo, what can we create in the chemistry of that moment?
And Josh is just so committed. Whatever he wants, he’s going to commit 100%. And acting with someone like that is sick. So that just led us down a pathway and unraveled different dimensions to what was already on the script.
Bonzie: Jayden and I had conversations early on about how we would approach this and the vision that we both had in terms of bringing these characters to life. Getting to work alongside someone where you’re already on the same page was really a blessing in a way. It just helped just really get the story out there.
What was it like shooting this on location in the Dominican Republic, vs. perhaps on a set?
Elijah: Yeah, it was so helpful to actually be on location. I’m from London, and because of how much cold and rain we have, and then the pollution we have, we carry ourselves a certain way and speak a certain way or don’t speak a certain way, to be honest with you.
But when we have the sun out and it’s so hot, and the food is so amazing, and the fruit is so fresh, you don’t have to do as much acting, which is always nice. When it’s actually hot, I don’t have to fake sweat. I just have a string vest on, and I’m actually hot as Edwin. So it informed a lot of his physicality and therefore a lot of how he thought and such. So helpful, yeah.
Bonzie: I think the setting sort of became another character in the story, which was such a beautiful blessing to be able to fully immerse ourselves in the world of the story, whether it was in the Dominican Republic or whether it was in New York. It was just very helpful to be able to shoot in these places.
Saint X is now streaming exclusively on Hulu.