Photo Credit: Parrish Lewis/Netflix
John Boyega & Teyonah Parris Talk 'They Cloned Tyrone,' Jamie Foxx & More
Starring Jamie Foxx, John Boyega, and Teyonah Parris, They Cloned Tyrone is one of the more innovative and entertaining original movies to come from Netflix in some time. We talked to the main figures about their mind-bending new movie.
The scenery and lingo sprinkled throughout the upcoming Netflix film They Cloned Tyrone (available to stream on July 21st) embodies the trifecta of sci-fi, mystery, and Blaxploitation that defines it. From oddball commercials for a nostalgic fried chicken spot with a secret ingredient that makes visitors burst into uncontrollable laughter to boxes of scalp-frying hair straightener that brainwashes Black women into relying on the beauty treatment, these abnormalities are just a couple examples that make up the directorial debut of Creed II screenwriter Juel Taylor.
Creating a retro look and feel
They Cloned Tyrone is led by a powerhouse trio of John Boyega (Fontaine), Teyonah Parris (Yo-Yo), and Jamie Foxx (Slick Charles), who bring the laughs and drama in their roles as a hustler, sex worker, and pimp, respectively. Depressed after the loss of his younger brother, Fontaine works as a drug dealer in a presumably Southern city, where he partners with Charles, a self-proclaimed “entrepreneur.” A night where Fontaine attempts to collect his profit from Charles goes awry when a rival dealer seemingly kills Fontaine, who strangely wakes up the next day. The bizarre circumstances lead Fontaine, Charles, and Yo-Yo into an underground laboratory, where they discover a cloned Fontaine and experiments that the government conducts on unexpecting community members. Although some viewers might be taken aback at the stereotypes at first glance, there’s a deeper storyline ahead. One where the three unlikely detectives expose a conspiracy that dooms Black lives.
“For me, this film talks about socioeconomic cycles and cycles of despair and trauma, and I think Juel speaks a lot about what's blame and what's responsibility, and where those two things may overlap and where they don't,” Parris told Okayplayer. “I'm excited for people to actually have that conversation, and for this to maybe be a springboard to jump start some of those conversations that can be very difficult and hard, and to really just have a piece of work that allows space for those tough topics.”
They Cloned Tyrone bursts with originality, kaleidoscopic design cues, ‘70s music references, and grainy details that make the escapade look like a throwback feature. Producer Stephen “Dr.” Love credited Taylor’s direction for the retro look and feel. “Juel’s absolute intention was for the movie to be completely anachronistic, to kind of live outside of time and space,” Love said. “So, there’s some ‘70s vibes in there, there’s some winks to the ‘90s in there, there’s some modern-day stuff in there, too. The whole point is that this town in the movie is completely controlled by the government or some agency. So, there's things that they just never updated, like their chicken joint looks the same as it did 30 years ago.”
The dynamic of the cast
Photo Credit: Parrish Lewis/Netflix
Love also complimented Boyega, Parris and Foxx, who all found time to bond in-between takes. The latter actor also performed impromptu comedy bits to keep the cast and crew uplifted during the height of COVID-19.
“What made our trio work perfectly is that they're so different from each other in real life and on-screen,” Love said. “Jamie can do damn-near anything. He can sing — in the movie he plays the piano. He’s also funny as hell. John Boyega is coming with this really stoic energy that is a perfect foil to Teyonah, and her banter that she has with Foxx and the way that she is an intellectual in the movie. She’s absolutely the Nancy Drew of the movie.”
Parris held her own against Boyega and Foxx, whose street-smart machismo were almost no match for Yo-Yo’s Nancy Drew-isms. She’s often seen as the group’s voice of reason, leading Fontaine and Charles to rescue her when she’s kidnapped by the same government organization they’re trying to uncover. The strong, cunning, and afro-donning archetype works for Parris, who’s shown her charismatic chops in everything from Dear White People (the movie) to WandaVision (which precedes this year’s The Marvels).
“The thing with Yo-Yo that challenged me was making sure that the tone was in the right place,” Parris said. “She's so high energy. She's got so much to say and so much ambition that I wanted to make sure she was in the same movie as everyone else. I really relied on Juel to be my barometer on, ‘OK, is this too much? Is it not enough?’ He wanted a lot of what you see.”
Boyega, a British-Nigerian who hails from London, relied on his crew and dialect coach to learn Southern vernacular and master Fontaine’s drawl. The 31-year-old, who resided in Atlanta while filming for the movie took place there (and even stayed several months after filming was done), also visited local nightclubs and lounges to “soak up the culture” in preparation for the role.
“The ability to explore versatility for me was the most rewarding part,” he said. “To be able to just do multiple roles within one, Fontaine has given me such a big, major opportunity, especially at this stage of my career where I get to show off my chops a bit. I can't hate on that.”
Foxx, who has been recovering from an undisclosed “medical complication” since April, was unable to attend the world premiere of They Cloned Tyrone in late June. The Oscar-winner is currently on the mend, having shared They Cloned Tyrone promo on Instagram and recently greeting fans in Chicago. Boyega has since revealed that he spoke to Foxx over the phone since his hospitalization, but the cast has fond memories of his on-set antics.
“He's a GOAT, he's a legend, and to be able to work with him definitely solidified why he is those things, and why we consider him one of the best to do it in comedy and drama,” Parris said.
“We found new things that we probably didn't plan for just because of his presence and his enthusiasm,” Boyega added. “So, he definitely was a big impact energy-wise for the set, and definitely the scenes that we were in together.”
The impact of legends
Photo Credit: Parrish Lewis/Netflix
While They Cloned Tyrone makes a splash as an anticipated summer flick, the film also has a companion soundtrack via Republic Records, with tunes ranging from hip-hop to soul. Viewers might even notice Erykah Badu’s neo soul classic “Tyrone,” which received a contemporary rework for the soundtrack.
“She fell in love with Juel’s vision. Artists connect with real artists and Erykah and Juel hit it off. It was just an honor that she created this new version of the song,” film producer Charles D. King said about Badu. “[Juel] had lots of influences from Blaxploitation films to Outkast, then also contemporary trap music. It’s really a beautiful mashup of lots of genres from the ‘70s to now.”
Like ‘70s Blaxploitation sought to achieve, They Cloned Tyrone follows a suspenseful takedown of “The Man,” and brings viewers on a radical, thought-provoking crusade.
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