Scroll To Top

The Inspection’s Cast On Connecting With The Humanity In Their Roles

The Inspection’s Cast On Connecting With The Humanity In Their Roles

The Inspection
Courtesy of A24

PRIDE interviews the cast and director of the Golden Globe-nominated film.


One of the most powerful and provocative films of 2022 is Elegance Bratton’s The Inspection. Based on Bratton’s and real-life experiences, the film follows a young gay Black man, Ellis French (Jeremy Pope), who attempts to escape the homophobia of his homelife by joining the United States Marines.

In the era of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” circa 2005, this decision proves to be a dangerous one for Ellis, whose very identity becomes a potentially lethal secret. It’s an achingly poignant tale that has garnered plenty of critical acclaim. The Oscar buzz is high, and The Inspection has already secured The Independent Spirit Award nominations for Best Feature, Best Lead Performance for Jeremy Pope, and Best Supporting Performance for Gabrielle Union, who plays Ellis’ abusive and homophobic mother, Inez French. The film has also scored a Golden Globe nod for Pope’s performance.

Gabrielle Union and Jeremy Pope in The Inspection

For Bratton, there was never anyone else than Pope for the role of Ellis, because of both his talent, but also who he is, and how can represent queer Black men. “This film is something I wish I had as a teenager. I am very much concerned with the fate of Black, queer men, and queer people in general,” Bratton tells PRIDE. “In a world within which one out of two of us is likely to get HIV, eight times more likely to commit suicide, I think it was important to put an actual Black queer person in this role — in that Hero’s Journey kind of way, right? Give these future generations an example that not only can they get better, but you have the power to make it better.”

“When I came to the Marine Corps, I thought I was worthless, my mother kicked me out for being gay,” Bratton recalls. “And then I got to boot camp and my drill instructors let me know that my value was high, because I can protect the person to my left. And to my right. I wanted to put that value in a real Black queer person so that we can see ourselves succeed through trial and triumph over struggle.”

The Inspection

Courtesy of A24

Listening to Bratton, Pope was noticeably moved by the director’s words. “I’m a little taken aback because I’ve never heard him speak in that way. I was like, whew! OK,” he jokes to PRIDE. “[Elegance is] a special soul. And I think the thing that I just admire so much about him is he was so willing to put himself on the front line.”

“ I think when you’re telling your story, you’re telling your truth that comes at a cost. And once you give something away, especially like this, so personal, you can’t get it back,” Pope continues. “And when I connected with him about the story, he was telling me, ‘and my mom passed,’ it was still ongoing. It wasn’t like, OK, all is well. It was still something that he was having to work through, and to heal. So for him to ask me to go on that journey with him. I just said yes. And I will say yes, over and over and over again.”

The Inspection | Official Trailer HD | A24

That Bratton truly sees the Pope for who he is and celebrates it means everything to the actor. “To hear someone who champions me for who I am and all that I’s been a journey to get to this place confidently and comfortably and to be open and be a Black queer actor,” Pope admits. “ And to say, I’m OK with that. And to say, I’m not just this or that I can be all the things. So I’m just very grateful for the experience and grateful for the collaboration and the relationship.”

Pope equally kind words for his co-star Union. “To be able to work with someone like Gab, who is doing the work in the streets, and in real life, when the camera’s not watch her transform, and go to a deep dark place personally, to once again be a vessel to create something in our art that is tangible for people out there that have been abandoned, and told that they are worth nothing, that there is access to someone and some representation of something telling you, you can make it and you are enough, you’ve always been more than enough. It’s such a gift and such an honor,” he says.

The Inspection

Courtesy of A24

Union, who is a proud and vocal ally and stepmother to a trans daughter, Zaya Wade, who she shares with her husband Dwayne Wade, took on the role of the homophobic Inez with a purpose. “I think audiences will see parts of themselves that they don’t want to acknowledge,” she tells PRIDE. “That they’ve shoved down that they’ve whitewashed in a sense. Smoothed out in their minds. I’m not that bad. And they’ll realize you have been the villain in somebody’s story. But it’s not too late to change course. Every day is a new opportunity to get it right. Hopefully, through seeing some of their own darkness through the character, they’re inspired to move differently.”

If that seems far-fetched, Union assures us that the outcome she describes can indeed be very real. “I’ve seen it. I’ve seen parents be like,’ is that what I look like?’ ‘Yeah,’ and they’re like, ‘I don’t want that. I don’t want to miss not one more second of my child’s life.’” Union recalls. “It can be adult children. It can be small children. You don’t have to continue on just because that’s what you’ve always done. You do have the ability to change”

Watch PRIDE’s Full Interview with Elegance Bratton, Jeremy Pope, and Gabrielle Union below.

But it’s not those two leads who make the film a powerhouse: It features an incredible supporting cast as well. Raúl Castillo (Rosales), Eman Esfandi (Ismail), and Aaron Dominguez (Castro) round out the cast with stunning and heartbreaking performances.

“It was really, really intimate and personal,” Esfandi tells PRIDE of playing the role of Ismail. “It was also sort of a deep dive. It was kind of accessing parts of myself through my childhood, and through being Middle Eastern, and being raised in America [after 911, which happened] while I [was] a child — and then growing up with the repercussions of that. It was a really cathartic experience. And it’s very, very much a healing experience.”

The Inspection

Courtesy of A24

While Esfandi is not himself a Muslim, he worked with experts and the director to try and fully understand why his character would choose that time to enter the military. What he discovered is how many similarities his character had with Ellis, particularly that desperate desire for acceptance through assimilation.

“It really did stem from this idea that is so similar to Elegance, in the sense of not really understanding your own worth or loving yourself and doing whatever it took to assimilate to sort of find, find validation from the world outside of you, “ he explained. “For Ismail in particular, to fit into a country he was born into, but doesn’t present as.”

You can see PRIDE’s full interview with Raúl Castillo, Eman Esfandi, and Aaron Dominguez below.

For Dominguez , the key to bringing Castro to life was finding the common humanity between them, even when that was challenging. “I was thinking to myself, oftentimes, how would I, especially in a time like that, have responded to the cards that I was dealt? [How high] would the stakes [have to] be for me?” he tells PRIDE. Dominguez adds that, in some ways, his character also mirrors that of Ellis and Ismael in that he is seeking a place to fit in. In his case, that means leaning into the culture of the military.

The Inspection

Courtesy of A24

“There’s oftentimes in the film where Castro is very much not the instigator but he definitely...assimilates to the culture, especially within the hierarchy and military — especially within that time in the mid-2000s,”Dominguez says. “Yeah — it was very — it was a challenge for me. But I can definitely see the humanism around it because once again, I often just dealt with the question, “what would I have done?”

The truth is there are no simple answers. That complexity is just one more way that The Inspection shines.

The Inspection is available now to rent on VOD.

Banner Image OneOut Magazine - Fellow Travelers

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories