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‘The Harder They Fall’ director explains why the N-word wasn’t in the movie’s script

“Just because it’s a period piece, stop calling us niggas,” Director James Samuel told Essence.

JAY-Z, Jeymes Samuel Getty Images

The Harder They Fall, the JAY-Z-produced Black western, was released in theaters and on Netflix Wednesday (Nov. 3) and it’s already getting rave reviews.

The movie, which features Regina King as “Treacherous Trudy” and Idris Elba as “Rufus Buck,” is a period piece that details a fictional encounter by real Black cowboys who actually existed. In a recent interview with Essence, director Jeymes Samuel explained why he chose not to have the characters say “nigger” in the film.

“Just because it’s a period piece stop calling us niggas,” Samuel told the outlet. “It doesn’t give you license to call us niggas 100 times. Just because the story takes place in the 1800s shouldn’t give you license to make women subservient. When Nat Love says to Trudy Smith, ‘Where’s your boss?’ She goes, ‘Boss?” … Ain’t no subservience in this movie. We’re kings and queens on horseback.

The director, who came up with the idea of the film over a decade ago, said despite Hollywood’s negative portrayals of darker-skinned Black people, he never “played into complexionism.”

Samuel also discussed the movie’s soundtrack, which he composed the score for, and wrote and produced all of the songs. “The music is a huge component of The Harder They Fall because, historically, I’ve always categorized Westerns by the type of music that plays in them,” he explained. “Back in the old days it was a fast-strum, guitar-type Western, then they moved on to the big orchestral type, then they moved on to the Italian’s installments in the Old West. Then we had Ennio Morricone’s score, that began what was known as Spaghetti Westerns. So I wanted to do something that would have its own signature.”

“Black people in the Old West, we never been in the Old West in full-Technicolor swag. Not like this. Obviously, there’s been portrayals of Black people in Old Western cinema before, but not like this. So without retreading any other musical tropes, I needed to make a statement, musically,” he continued. “I realized that Dub, which I grew up on—my parents are West Indian and African—so Dub and Dancehall and all that, even West African music, like Fela, is very cowboy in its aesthetic. So I got Barrington Levy to sing on the actual score. Then I called the Fisk Jubilee Singers from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee…”

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