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From Experimental Inspiration to Feature Film: Actor​ Rahmell Peebles Confronts an Old Narrative

The life of an inspirational rapper motivated actor Rahmell Peebles to think creatively and move independently to confront an old narrative. Tackling the absence of quality opportunities for Black and urban actors is no small feat, however, Peebles and some local teens are doing just that. With a new feature film that Peebles wrote, directed, and produced with his acting class, he is ready to take his career and the careers of others to the next level.

“My hope is that this film will not only encourage creators in Hollywood to cast Black people from the ghetto in more than what’s stereotypical,” said Peebles. “But I’d also like to encourage Hollywood and indie filmmakers to be more conscious in their approach. Instead of making a film with the mere intention to make money or entertain, find a way to give back in your approach.”

The Black Experiment centers around the mental health of several teens brought up on criminal charges and forced to participate in shock therapy to avoid jail time in this dystopian drama.

In the summer of 2019, Peebles gave a group of inner-city teens free acting classes, to teach acting fundamentals and provide support to young artists. “I thought back on the days when I first began acting and remembered how expensive it was to take acting classes and how even harder it was to find representation,” said Peebles. “I had been through many talent reps, hundreds of auditions and felt it was time for me to take control.” So, the 32-year-old actor decided to make his own film resulting in The Black Experiment.

“In that class, while exploring acting techniques we realized as a group how important mental health is to our community, and how the reason most of our youth get caught in the criminal justice trap is because there are dealing with mental health issues. A lot of the character stories in the film were directly inspired by the teens who star in it and from the experiences we all shared in class,” said Peebles.

“I was a few months late, but around that time I had just started to listen to Nipsey’s Album Victory Lap. To me, Nipsey was the new Jay Z. He was a little older when his first album dropped like Jay, and he did it on his terms and with ownership like Jay. He encouraged independence in his interviews and in his album, and in a way, I felt like he was talking to me.” Saddened and hurt by the sudden death of Nipsey Hustle, Peebles got the idea for this project. “I’ve always been called to work with kids. So, I said it’s time to combine my calling and my dream. Nipsey showed me that that was possible,” Peebles shares.

“In the past several years we’ve seen a resurgence in Black filmmaking, and I couldn’t have been happier to watch it manifest. From films like Get Out to Black Panther, Hollywood has given Black creators the opportunity to explore new avenues of storytelling that transcend the typical drug dealer stories and it has been successful beyond measure. What I did not see was the representation of underprivileged African Americans and their culture. I saw attempts at it, especially in a few of Ryan Coogler’s films, which I loved. But I still feel there was a hindrance in the execution of representing inner city culture,” said Peebles.

“I wanted hood kids to see themselves in the film when they watched it, but I wanted the story to be just as unique as Get Out. And I wanted to make sure that the actors had technique. So, I thought like Nipsey, meaning I asked myself, how can I create an opportunity for me to create and give back to my community.”

The Black Experiment is currently being submitted to film festivals throughout the country.


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