• David Peck

The Last Shift: Tackling Systemic Issues in Art and Film with Richard Jenkins

'The Last Shift' movie with Richard Jenkins



Art is never neutral — there is always intention and meaning behind it. Art, like films, reveals eye-opening storylines that tug at the heartstrings and peel back unsettling layers of reality. Films can shed light on important issues and untold stories of complex subject matters. Peeling back these layers can be tricky, but it is necessary for accepting reality as it is.


In this episode, award-winning actor Richard Jenkins talks about the premise of his latest film, The Last Shift. Richard delves into the film's themes of maturity, change, and emotional intelligence. He touches on the value of art gained from the creator's worldly experiences. Finally, Richard shares how he connects with a script and develops an intuitive sense rooted in experience for genuine dialogue.


If you're interested to hear more about The Last Shift and the art of acting, this episode is for you!


3 reasons why you should listen to the full episode:

  1. Get a sneak peek of the movie The Last Shift and the critical issues it tackles, such as racism and white privilege.

  2. Discover how art, like film, can effect change through storytelling and perspective.

  3. Learn how Richard connects with the characters he plays and how he tells the difference between a good and a lousy script.



Resources

Episode Highlights

[05:32] Parallels between Richard and His Character Stanley

Richard: “When you read something, you connect with it or you don't.” - Click Here To Tweet This
  • Richard plays a character named Stanley in the film The Last Shift. He empathizes with the character as everyone knows a "Stanley" in their life.

  • He loved the movie's writing, where it went, and how it has a deeper meaning.

[06:52] The Themes of Change and Maturity in The Last Shift

  • The film is a slice of life that tackles important issues like racism. There's no magic ending in the movie—but it shows hope.

  • The character of Jevon is the one who changes in the movie, while Stanley remains as Stanley.

  • Stanley is not a bad guy, but he doesn't have the emotional intelligence or maturity to change.

  • The movie beautifully shows the affection between the characters Stanley and Jevon.

Richard: “If anybody learns from anybody, a Stanley learns from a Jevon.” - Click Here To Tweet This

[09:03] The Final Scene

  • Everything in the world isn't okay—it never is.

  • Another movie Richard starred in, The Visitor, is more relevant today than when it was shot.

  • Andrew Cohen is a filmmaker who creates the films he wants to make.

  • Being a documentary filmmaker is looking at the world from a different perspective.

  • Stanley and Jevon's story is untold and worthy of being heard.

[11:58] Effecting Change Through Art

  • Richard says change happens subliminally.

  • Art isn't just there to make people happy. Art is also the eye-opening lessons and layers of the story peeling away to reveal the truth.

  • Art is also not a frivolous pursuit. Peeling back layers can be difficult, but it is necessary for understanding to emerge.

  • You can use art to try to shed light on a subject. However, it is difficult to participate in the discussion when dealing with issues where you have no firsthand experience.

[14:37] A Change in Perspective

  • In his films, Andrew Cohen raises important issues. The Last Shift depicted white privilege.

  • A slow change in character development happens as the film progresses.

  • Your perspective gets influenced by the narratives you've heard and lived your whole life.

  • It's not the job of a filmmaker to answer questions.

  • The story of The Last Shift may not be evident to you, but it's the reality for many people.

[16:38] Going by the Handbook

  • Stanley, Richard's character, only missed taking the bus once in 38 years on the job.

  • Richard has never missed the bus, but he knows it's a horrible experience.

  • The film presents the systemic thinking of going by the handbook and following rules through Stanley's character.

[17:30] A Character of Contradictions

  • Stanley is a man of contradictions in some ways.

  • In the movie, Stanley wears a class ring. It is a metaphor for how Stanley was stuck in the past as he never graduated.

  • Stanley doesn't have much worldly experience. He feels awful about what he did, but he doesn't know how to remedy it.

  • The way the character of Jevon dealt with what Stanley did to him was brilliant.

  • Richard had a lot of fun with his castmates during the movie shoot.

[22:022] Connecting with the Script

Richard: “When you read enough bad scripts in your life, you'll learn when dialogue is not dialogue.” - Click Here To Tweet This
  • The dialogue and script help to clarify the movie's plot.

  • A brilliant screenwriter will find another way to narrate relationships without explicitly mentioning them.

  • One of the reasons Richard loves being an actor is he doesn’t know what’s coming next. It is both terrifying and exciting.

  • Acting is not a career you plan—you just go with it.

About Richard

Richard Jenkins is an Oscar-nominated and Emmy award-winning film and television actor with over 100 film credits. He is best known for his roles in films such as The Visitor (2007), Step Brothers (2008), The Shape of Water (2017), as well as television series Six Feet Under (2001) and Olive Kitteridge (2015). In 2014, he received the Pell Award for Lifetime Achievement from Trinity Repertory Company in Providence.


Richard recently starred in the 2020 American comedy-drama film The Last Shift.


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