Jeremy Pope on His Devastating Star Turn in Elegance Bratton’s ‘The Inspection’

With The Inspection, his feature directorial debut, filmmaker Elegance Bratton—best known for the Vice series My House and the 2019 documentary Pier Kids, two sensitive portraits of queer life in New York City—considers his own complicated story. The drama centers on a young, Black gay man named Ellis French (a striking Jeremy Pope) who, pushed out of the house by his mother, Inez (Gabrielle Union), enlists in the Marines in the mid-2000s, long before the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” At bootcamp, French thrills to the rigors of basic training but is quickly singled out and brutalized by one Sgt. Laws (Bokeem Woodbine), the kind of man who says thing like “Our job is not to make Marines, it’s to make monsters.” (Laws begs comparison to R. Lee Ermey in Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, a film that, along with Claire Denis’s lyrical Beau Travail, inspired the look and mood of The Inspection.) Yet he finds allies in his barracks, too—among them Rosales (Looking’s Raúl Castillo), a protective older officer, and Ismail (Eman Esfandi), another alienated recruit—and, in time, a hard-won sense of purpose.

Between rehearsals for The Collaboration, which begins previews on Broadway later this month, Pope spoke to Vogue about his first leading film role, holding emotional space for Bratton’s story, and what he’d like to do next.

Vogue: How is everything? How are rehearsals going?

Jeremy Pope: It’s going! I’ve been kind of all over the place—I have rehearsals and I’m promoting a movie and I’m trying to stay sane, but all is good. Champagne problems.

To dive right in, I’d love to know about your first conversations with Elegance Bratton, and what he communicated to you about his vision for what is obviously a very personal film for him.

I was sent the script by my team during the pandemic, and the team was just like, “We hope you love the script, but ultimately we want you to connect with Elegance. We think you guys [have a similar] creative mind.” So I hopped on a Zoom with Elegance, and honestly I fell in love with his spirit and his generosity.

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