Q&A With Corey Grant, Director And McKinley Freeman, Actor – “Illicit”

Corey Grant and McKinley Freeman
Corey Grant and McKinley Freeman

The upcoming film “Illicit” follows well-liked parole officer Guy Curtis (David Ramsey) and his beautiful wife, former model Sasha Curtis (Shireen Crutchfield), who enjoy a successful marriage until she gets the itch to go back to work. As Sasha forms an “unlikely friendship” with an emerging photographer, Guy is dealing with a parolee who proves to be more than he bargained for. As loose ends unravel and a world of secrets, sex, and lies creep closer to home, “Illicit” poses the simple question: “Can you have everything without losing it all?”

N’Digo recently sat down with director Corey Grant (“Dysfunctional Friends”, “The Lost Coast Tapes”) and actor McKinley Freeman (“Scandal”, “Hit The Floor”) to discuss the film and their upcoming projects.

How did you get your start in the movie business?

McKinley – For me it was boredom. *laughs* I was working for IBM, and something started telling me I was meant to be doing something different, so I started searching for what that was. I never wanted to be an actor, but I always appreciated classic and creative movies. Now, I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Corey – I got my start as a director by doing one of the most financially irresponsible things you can do as a young man. While in college at Howard University, I used my Pell Grant money and financial aid refund checks to fund my first feature film. I was able to sell that feature, and that was my first taste of the business.

Being a director didn’t really start to be a real goal for me until I turned 26, but I often wondered about what it would be like when I first saw the movie House Party. I also saw the influx of new black directors in the 90s that were emerging, and wanted to be a part of that.

The upcoming film “Illicit” Click to watch Trailer

Tell us about the film and a bit about what inspired you to write it?

Corey – “Illicit” explores the story of a married couple who, after having affairs, realize it’s much harder to end one then to start one. It’s a roller coaster of sex, lies and eroticism. I was inspired to write it because I always thought the movie “Unfaithfu”l was so effective in making husbands feel so uncomfortable with the thought of their wives cheating, and thought it would be even more interesting if it were both spouses at the same time. That’s where the idea came from initially.

McKinley, what were your initial thoughts when reading the script?

I thought it was very creative. I also thought there was an opportunity for me to really dig in and put my own stamp on this movie.

How did you prepare for the role of Lance?

McKinley – I really spent a lot of time delving into the character, trying to learn him inside and out, and figure out what made him tick and do the things he does.

Corey, you also directed the film. What’s the difference in directing a project you wrote in comparison to one you didn’t write?

Well, when I’m directing my own scripts, it is very organic and flawless in terms of conveying the theme I want to get across. The material I’m working with originated with me and was created by me. When I’m hired to direct a script I didn’t write, it’s my job to find the theme and execute my vision as well as the vision of the writer. This definitely has it’s challenges, but understanding the material completely is key if you plan on bringing the material to life.

Best advice or words of wisdom for aspiring actors?

Corey – One word: ACT! Short films, feature films, theater…anything and everything you can to sharpen your skills, so when your major opportunity presents itself, you are ready. Also, remember; it’s all about patience and persistence.

Director Corey Grant and "Illicit" cast
Director Corey Grant and “Illicit” cast

Any favorite affirmations?

McKinley – “God, let it be all of you and none of me” and “Inspiration finds you while you’re working”.

Corey – Stand behind your work, not in front of it.

What’s next for you?

Corey – I have a couple of new features on the horizon including “Marriage 4 Dummiez”, which I’m very excited about. I’m also venturing into the TV side of the business with some new shows we have in the pipeline. Basically, I’m doing anything in my power to raise my profile so I can get one of those “Star Wars” directing gigs that seem to be going around these days. I love Star Wars!!!

McKinley – I’m currently recurring on “If Loving You is Wrong”. I’ll be on “Scandal” in May, and my new show, “Daytime Divas”, premiers on VH1 June 5. Dreams and goals overlap, but the hope is to work toward them every day, resulting in a project that everyone, from craft services to the producers, can be proud of.

Catch “Illicit” during it’s limited theatrical run May 5th-11th at the Studio Movie Grill located at 210 W.87th Street in Chicago’s Chatham neighborhood.

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