Red Tails tells the story of a crew of African American pilots in the Tuskegee training program, having faced segregation while kept mostly on the ground during World War II, are called into duty under the guidance of Col. A.J. Bullard. The African American stars in the movie are proud to have taken on the roles and have learned some valid lessons.
Terrence Howard recently commented on having to respond to the racist comments made by a superior officer (“Breaking Bad’s” Bryan Cranston) within the context of a military chain of command and as a man of the 1940′s whose entire life had been spent under segregation. “I learned something very early on. My brother said to me, ‘How do you think God views you? Does he view you as who you are today or as who you will be once His son’s blood has been poured in your behalf and you’ve had time to gain that?’ I think Colonel Bullard, who was the cinematic example of a man named Colonel Ben Davis, who went to West Point. No one spoke to him for four years. He saw them as making mistakes and immature and un-evolved in their understanding of human relationships and abilities. And so he was always able to look at the better side of people. What was beautiful, is that Cuba and I, after battling against each other in films or trying to get the same role, we actually split Benjamin Davis into two and Cuba was Benjamin on the base and I was Benjamin in Washington. It’s protocol. It’s respect. You see the standard and how people hold themselves, the comportment and that is passed on to you.”
“I was told by my great-great-grandfather that limitation brings about genius,” Howard said. “When you have limited resources, limited opportunity, and a limited period of time to accomplish something, that’s when the human spirit shines. It has been a difficult struggle but it has made me a much better actor. The Tuskegee Airmen were not initially wanted. They were not allowed to fly so for the first year and a half or two years they had a ton of time to practice and become perfect. By the time they were able to participate they were all seasoned pilots. That’s what happens to the black community of actors. Because we don’t have as many opportunities to play, we play amongst ourselves and get so much stronger, with so much more spirit. None of the other films I’ve done got a screening at the White House,” Howard said. ”It was a long time coming and I am glad we were able to participate in it. For me, there’s a scripture in Isaiah, where he says, ‘Ten Gentiles will grab the skirt of a Jew and get into the Promised Land.’ I feel like forever David’s any my legacy will be attached to the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen. We will always be the face and the voice for their accomplishments.”