BLACK OR WHITE
Growing up in Compton, Calif., Kevin Costner learned a few things about race — and some of those things, he made a conscious effort to unlearn. He talked to MOM.ME recently in a great interview.
The 60-year-old actor and father stars in and produced "Black or White," a PG-13 film about a grandfather who is suddenly left to care for his biracial granddaughter. When her paternal grandmother, played by Octavia Spencer, wants custody, the little girl is torn between two families. Not only that, but racial tensions come into play, and let's just say that things get harsh.
"I was around these issues, and extended family—and how everyone talked. I no longer talk that way," Costner reveals to mom.me. "That was just the way you grew up. [But] I don’t think that, and my children know nothing about that."
As a father, how have you talked to your own children about race?
I’ve had to deal with that with my oldest set. I’ve had two sets of children, and my youngest, they don’t know anything about it, which is encouraging. But they will see it somewhere along the line, and we will have that discussion. But right now, it’s really important how you talk at the dinner table. It’s really important when you’re in the car how you talk, because they’re listening. Whether you think they’re playing with their little Game Boys or whatever it is, they’re really listening. If you’re running red lights, they actually think that’s what they can do, too. If you’re fibbing about something, then they actually think that’s what they can do, too, in their life. If you act like you can get away with stuff, they’re going to do the same.
You have been known as an actor who has bridged gaps between races — “Dances With Wolves,” “The Bodyguard,” now “Black or White.” What has drawn you to those themes?
"Dances With Wolves," for me, was a love story to the past, as tragic as it was. "Bodyguard," which I seem to have gotten a lot of credit for about how brave it was to cast Whitney [Houston], was — again, I don’t know if I’m just naïve — but I just knew I just had to find the prettiest girl, and so that drilled down so quickly in my mind to Whitney Houston. That’s really sincerely how I thought about it. And "Black or White," when I read it, I was just stunned at how it dealt with this subject. It’s such a personal story. It’s a story of what we’re living right now. It’s us, and it’s like we’re not looking at history; we’re looking at right where we’re at. I thought it was just too important to pass up. And now the hope is that people will go.