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‘Being a Black queer man helped me understand my character’s struggles in Netflix series Eric’-Sabrina Barr-Entertainment – Metro

‘I’ve been through my own journey of what it feels like to not feel like you can be your full self,’ the actor shared.

‘Being a Black queer man helped me understand my character’s struggles in Netflix series Eric’-Sabrina Barr-Entertainment – Metro

‘I’ve been through my own journey of what it feels like to not feel like you can be your full self,’ the actor shared (Picture: Ludovic Robert/Netflix)

Warning: spoilers ahead for Eric.

The minute that Netflix viewers start watching Eric, they’ll immediately become engrossed in the harrowing and captivating tale about a young boy who goes missing in 1980s New York.

That nine-year-old boy is Edgar Anderson (Ivan Morris Howe), the son of Vincent (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Cassie (Gaby Hoffmann), whose disappearance is meticulously investigated by police detective Michael Ledroit (McKinley Belcher III). recently had the chance to speak to McKinley about his role, as the actor shared what it was like to play Ledroit, who not only has a mysterious case on his hands, but is also hiding the fact that he’s gay from his colleagues in the police force.

In Eric, it’s revealed that McKinley is living with his partner William (Mark Gillis), whose health is deteriorating while he suffers from Aids.

At work, Ledroit is teased about the fact that he’s a single man without a girlfriend, to the point where he agrees to go to a dinner at his boss’s house and take his secretary Tina (Erika Soto) as his date.

Ledroit keeps his relationship with William a secret from his colleagues (Picture: Ludovic Robert/Netflix)

After Ledroit goes on a date with his secretary Tina, she subtly reveals to him that she’s worked out that he’s gay (Picture: Netflix)

Later on in the series, Ledroit is informed that the love of his life William died after he was taken to hospital.

While Ledroit initially shares a heartfelt moment with William’s sister as they console one another about their loss, following the funeral she tells him that he must move out of the apartment that he and his partner shared together, as he doesn’t have any legal rights in their relationship.

During our conversation with McKinley, we asked him whether there were any real-life influences that inspired his stellar performance as Ledroit.

‘Not in terms of a real-life cop that I modelled anything on. But I do think that doing this show was at a time in my life where there’s like a whirlwind of a bunch of things happening,’ the 40-year-old responded.

‘There’s a couple people in my life who were very present in my mind, as I thought about what this man is carrying and the weight on his shoulders and the sort of constriction that exists in his body and in his heart.’

One person in McKinley’s life who he thought of was his nephew, who is ‘very close to his heart’ and is ‘wonderfully awkward’.

McKinley with his co-stars Benedict and Gaby, and the show’s creator Abi Morgan (Picture: Monica Schipper/Getty Images)

The actor shared how his nephew influenced his performance as Ledroit (Picture: John Salangsang/Rex Features/Shutterstock)

The actor explained that it helped to consider what it might feel like for someone ‘to not fully understand how to express some things that are very close to the heart’.

‘It made me very sensitive to the unexpressed, and what that means for a person,’ he stated.

‘As a Black queer man in life, I’ve been through my own journey of what it feels like to not feel like you can be your full self and how much that feels like you’re not operating at full capacity.

‘So I think in a very real way, I understood how much of a handicap that would be and what it would mean in the end for him to be able to step fully into that.’

When he thought about how he would approach playing Ledroit, the Ozark star emphasised that Ledroit has ‘a lot on his shoulders and a lot of it is quite heavy’.

‘There’s a lot of play in terms of what is hidden and revealed,’ he explained.

Ledroit spends many nights at The Lux nightclub investigating his cases (Picture: Ludovic Robert/Netflix)

The police detective has a complicated romantic past with the club’s owner, Gator (Wade Allain-Marcus) (Picture: Ludovic Robert/Netflix)

‘I thought a lot about like, what it would be like to exist in the apartment where it’s a completely safe space, and to then walk out into the world on a daily basis that feels quite hostile.’

McKinley believed that Ledroit would do ‘a lot of compartmentalising’ in his personal and professional life as a way to cope with everything that he was going through.

‘So for me over the course of the six episodes, it’s very much a journey of a man stepping fully into himself, embracing himself and sort of standing in his power in the end,’ he added.

During our conversation with McKinley, we also spoke to Abi Morgan, the creator and writer of Eric.

Discussing the themes of Eric – considering the series takes viewers in several different directions while exploring various very important societal issues – she emphasised how the series asks whether things have really ‘changed’ over the years.

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‘Are we still in the world that institutionalised racism is still prevalent? Are we still in a world where we’re not looking in the right place for the monsters?’ she said.

‘I guess I just want an audience to be entertained, but also I hope it’s as thought-provoking and as meditative as our approach was as a creative team.’

One of the most fascinating elements of Eric is the way that it weaves humour into the narrative, despite the dark subject matter that it addressed.

This storytelling technique was utilised predominantly through the character of Eric, a huge monster-like puppet that was designed by Edgar before he disappeared, and who begins to haunt the boy’s father, puppeteer Vincent, as his world unravels.

‘I think I’m asking an audience to come play on these very big dark ideas. And in a way, the world of Good Day Sunshine, the world of Eric, the manifestation of Eric… he’s been born from two very different children: the child which is Vincent and the child, which is Edgar,’ Abi detailed.

The seven-foot tall was designed by Vincent’s son Edgar, but it is a combination of the father and son, Abi explained (Picture: Netflix)

Abi’s previous works include The Hour, Shame and Suffragette (Picture: Matt Winkelmeyer/WireImage)

‘So that humour felt like a very natural progression of how Edgar saw the world and how he had sort of designed Eric on the page.’

The screenwriter continued: ‘I liked the fact that you could throw light into the darkness and that the humour had a levity to it. The manifestation of Eric was born out of Vincent in many ways.

‘Vincent had to pick up on these drawings left by his son and has to grow and develop him and so he’s wrestling with himself. Watching Benedict as an actor do that, that also created a lot of humour.’

That humour and playfulness served as a ‘counterpoint to the dark vein of threat that runs through the whole of the show’, particularly the ‘beautiful, still metronome of Ledroit and his grief, his journey and the very serious business of policing’, she stated.

‘It felt like there was a childlike world cutting against that which was useful for us in storytelling.’

Eric is available to stream on Netflix.

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