[Editor’s note: The following article contains spoilers for “Blindspotting”]
“Blindspotting” performed well in its 14-theater debut this weekend — good news for its stars/writers/producers, who nixed a gut punch from the conclusion. Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal told Oscar-winning screenwriter Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight”) about the alternate ending earlier this month following a Film Independent at LACMA screening.
In the Sundance 2018 opener — from director Carlos López Estrada — Collin (Diggs) successfully completes his parole, escaping several chilling incidents with guns (some caused by Casal’s Miles). At the beginning of “Blindspotting,” he witnesses a white cop (Ethan Embry) kill an unarmed black man; in act three, Collin almost pulls the trigger on Officer Molina, but walks away. The compassionate choice allows him to move out of the Oakland halfway house where he has lived for the past year.
“The thread that is the one that we couldn’t finish out is Collin in the halfway house keeps getting reminded to clean the bathroom,” said Casal, who worked on the film for a decade with Diggs. “That’s pulled from a story that [happened to] one of the people Collin’s based on…In the real story, he had done a six-year bid in federal prison, got out, he did a year of halfway-house probation, and on his last day, he forgot to clean the bathroom, and they sent him back to jail for seven months,” he continued, eliciting gasps from the audience.
“For somebody on probation…that’s a trap,” said Diggs, a Tony and Grammy Award winner for “Hamilton” (his director from the musical, Thomas Kail, was in attendance). Law-enforcement officials are “actively trying to send you back [to prison], and make money off of you when you’re in there, and when you’re out of there.” Casal described the many minuscule oversights that can resulted in more incarceration time as “idiotic” and “a minefield for you to climb your way through.”
With their friend’s experience in mind, Casal said, “we originally had an ending when Collin avoided everything, and he went back to jail in the last scene” for neglecting his janitorial tasks. “And then we realized ya’ll couldn’t take it,” he conceded, to laughter and applause.
“What we’re hoping to do throughout the end of the film — we don’t really say much about what we hope it does, publicly, really, but we love ya’ll, so we’ll talk about it — is it’s just a call for empathy,” explained Casal. “My favorite thing about the film is that at the end of the movie, an ex-con with a gun on a cop is who you’re rooting for. And if you can do that in here, we can do that with people” in the outside world. Whenever newscasts run through the familiar “menu” of a person’s past criminal activity, Casal wishes those at home “don’t immediately go, ‘Deserves it.'”
Lionsgate will bring “Blindspotting” to theaters across America this Friday.