“Reading Homer was a very powerful experience,” says Chase W. Dillon about his first time with the script for “The Underground Railroad.” Based on Colson Whitehead‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name and directed by Academy Award winner Barry Jenkins, the 10-episode limited series follows Cora (Thuso Mbedu), an enslaved girl who makes a bid for freedom from slaveholding Georgia in 19th-century United States. In our exclusive video interview with Dillon (watch above), the actor talks us through his initial reaction to the script, Homer’s complexity, and working with Jenkins.
Dillon plays Homer, a 10-year-old Black boy and a former slave, who was set free by Ridgeway (Joel Edgerton) and now drives the latter’s wagon and keeps his records. Having also read half of the source material and conducted extensive research in preparation for the project, Dillon explains that merely reading the script gave him considerable insight into who Homer is. “It’s like we just clicked,” the actor says about the instant relationship between him and his character, to whom he brought some of himself, he elucidates.
In playing the “observant” Homer, who has rather sparse dialogue throughout the show, Dillon underlines that his body language “opened his mouth for him” and thereby “spoke for him on the show.” “Mischievous” and “smart” are two other adjectives the actor uses to describe Homer, who noticeably stays by Ridgeway’s side at all times despite the latter having set him free. In this regard, Dillon expounds that Homer does so because attempting to go up North would either lead to him being “killed” or “put back into slavery.” Conversely, remaining by Ridgeway’s, a White man’s, side would not only prevent that but also allow Homer “to go around anywhere.” Ultimately, the actor considers Ridgeway and Homer to have a “father-son bond.”
Finally, Dillon sheds light on his overall experience of working on “The Underground Railroad,” pointing out the sense of “comfort” that writer, creator and director of all 10 episodes Jenkins established on set. Even though the 11-year-old actor is still naturally in the early stages of his career, this show isn’t, however, the first entry into his filmography, as he previously appeared in “First Wives Club,” Little America” and “That Damn Michael Che.”
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