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'A Thousand and One' Stars Will Catlett, Josiah Cross Discuss Fatherhood, the Foster Care System

Back in January, A Thousand and One won the Sundance Film Festival’s grand jury prize in the U.S. dramatic competition. Written and directed by A.V. Rockwell, the film tells the story of a young Black woman named Inez who kidnaps her 6-year-old son from the foster care system. The film follows her as she attempts to get back on track and figure life out while living in Harlem.

Since its world premiere at Sundance, A Thousand and One has been receiving amazing reviews for not only the story but the entire cast including Teyana Taylor who plays Inez. Josiah Cross plays Terry, the 17-year-old version of Inez's son and Will Catlett plays Lucky, Inez's love interest.

We recently spoke with Catlett and Cross about the New York City drama, the role fatherhood had in the film and the foster care system.

What attracted you to this particular project?

Catlett: I felt like it was something that I can pour my spirit into, and my soul into. The words jumped off the page. I enjoyed what A.V. Rockwell, incredible director-writer, was trying to say and some things you really are like, "this was meant for me."

What was it about reading the script that really excited you about this project?

Cross: I love that you use the word excite because I definitely was excited. At this point in my career, to do something that was different than anything or any roles that I had done at the time... a challenge to sink myself in the material that was personal, because the story was definitely personal to me. With this, brave, brilliant Black woman was able to put into words. An experience and story that is so specific to a lot of us, boys in America. And that's truly where the excitement came because the challenge as an actor, was that okay, "I rather tell the story before anyone else does."

How important is fatherhood in A Thousand and One?

Catlett: It's very important. There's a lot of people who have two parents in the household, there's a lot of people who don't. Some of my biggest lessons I've learned, even though I have an amazing father, wasn't from my dad. It was either from a person playing a dad in a film. I grew up watching Family Matters. There's so many lessons that I learned from Family Matters. There's so many lessons I've learned from Good Times and all those different sitcoms that I came up on. And you need that source and that anchor to be able to find yourself in that. And in the film, Lucky is that anchor. He's given gems, he's given lessons, he's saying, "hey, do this, do that, don't do this, don't do that." And the truth of the matter is, we live in a time now that people are so scared to tell you, "don't go left go, right." Everybody thinks that they're their own man or their own person and we don't listen to the elders like we used to. And so part of that fatherhood is having that elderly advice.

On Black people not being able to get second chances:

Cross: I'm of the mind frame of doing everything in my own personal power to change my circumstances. So I feel like the more we can do that as individuals, it opens up the landscape for society or systematic structures to look at..."oh, we threw them in the fire, and then they made it out on their own." And obviously, everyone's not going to be able to do that. But I do feel that there needs to be a more forgiving and a more empathetic perspective and embrace around. If you're going to say that America is the land of a second chance, then stand on it and don't just provide it for a certain select group of people.

Were you surprised about anything after filming about the foster care system?

Catlett: I remember going to the library. I don't know if they do it now. But you had to look on those index cards to find books or look up things, but to have kids on index cards and no true system, you already know that that system was broken. I shared this in an interview on a radio station... how I identify with that and how that part touched me. My sister, that is no longer alive, but she has four kids. And she got caught up in the crack era. And a lot of her kids were getting ready to experience that foster care system, if it hadn't been for her dad to take, one and my dad and my mom to take one. So I can see how a kid can get lost in that system and so to see that, and to learn about that, and how A.V. put that in the story, it was just it... we need to think about those kids. Not just watch the story and say the movie, "oh, it was beautiful. No, there's kids right now that are suffering in that system and we need to do everything in our power to make sure the system is doing the best thing for those kids."

Check out the full interview below.

A Thousand and One is now playing in theaters.


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