The new drama The Public is shaking things up at a local library with some of Hollywood’s biggest names!

The Public tells the story of an act of civil disobedience that turns into a standoff with police when homeless people in Cincinnati take over the public library to seek shelter from the cold. Our correspondent Stephen Walker is sitting down with the cast for an inside look at the new film!

Twelve Years Coming

Emilio Estevez, the film’s director, writer, producer and star, tells Walker that the hardest part about making the movie wasn’t production, but postproduction!

“Making the film is oftentimes the easiest part. Getting it out there, getting it into the marketplace, getting it distributed—we’ve all done independent movies and we know that many times they don’t see the light of day. So I’ve been on this now for 12 years.”

According to Estevez, the changing world and political climate affected the story through the decade-long filmmaking process.

“The script changed quite a bit. The last ten years helped really inform the film, and especially the ending of the movie. The end of the film is a celebration of nonviolent civil disobedience, which we don’t necessarily see in movies these days.”

Our Democracy in Action

Star Taylor Schilling says that her experience making the film changed her understanding of the relationship between libraries and homelessness. Libraries, she says, inform everyone who walks through their doors, no matter how wealthy or poor they are.

“Libraries are our democracy in action. They’re one of the few places where you can really appreciate some democratic values,” Schilling says.

The Public

Alec Baldwin compares libraries to homeless shelters of sorts, and says that people who work there are being asked to deal with tasks that are beyond their job description.

“What I like about the film is that is paints the tragedy on both sides: the people who run the library have this terrible task of maintaining this space for the general public, and what they owe the homeless is the same thing they owe everyone else who comes walking in the door.”

Baldwin seems to have a great relationship with his own library card:

“A library is a place where you change when you walk into a library. You go and something takes over. And you’re gonna go on this journey to learn, without interruption, without anybody bugging you. I mean, I’ve always loved going to libraries because then I don’t have my kids sitting on my face while I’m trying to read a magazine.”

Becoming Their Characters

Michael K. Williams tells Walker he didn’t have to do much research for the film: he was born ready!

“It wasn’t really about doing research. I want to feel human, I want to feel accepted, and I went in with those desires that I have for myself. I went in for him [his character Jackson]. He’s a human being, I shouldn’t have to study how to be a human being. Everybody just wants to feel accepted, wants to feel acknowledged. I played it from a very basic aspect.”

Estevez calls Williams‘ character, who is also a veteran, a “philosopher and a warrior poet.”

“When he calls for this action, it’s a very courageous move for him. It sets the wheels in motion for what ultimately happens over the course of the film.”

The Public

Emilio Estevez and Michael K. Williams in ‘The Public’

The Film in Real Life

On why it’s so easy to ignore homeless people on the street, Gabrielle Union says it boils down to a lack of compassion.

“We’re selfish people. We’re self-centered people. We’re narcissistic, generally speaking, and we don’t see ourselves as them. As someone who’s family has dealt with poverty and homelessness and addiction, and all those things that you don’t think are you, or couldn’t possibly be you or people that you know, it’s around the corner. It’s right there. At the end of the day we can’t ‘other’ your fellow human beings, the people who are living and breathing and loving and wanting all the same basic needs that you want and need and have.”

The Public

The Public is in theaters now!