I was invited to participate in a virtual press conference for the Disney+ film “Safety”, which is an inspiring film based on the true story of Ray-Ray McElrathbey. Participating in the press conference were Jay Reeves (Ray-Ray); Thaddeus J. Mixson II (Fahmarr); Corinne Foxx (Kaycee); Hunter Sansone (Daniel Morelli); director Reginald Hudlin; producer Mark Ciardi and Ray-Ray McElrathbey. Don Munson, play by play announcer for the Clemson Tigers, moderated. The story is set at Clemson University.
The official information for the film: Disney’s “Safety” is inspired by the empowering story of former Clemson University football safety Ray McElrathbey , a young man facing a series of challenging circumstances, whose dedication and persistence help him to triumph over repeated adversities. Aided by his teammates and the Clemson community, he succeeds on the field while simultaneously raising and caring for his 11-year-old brother Fahmarr.
Producer Mark Ciardi took a question about how did they choose whose stories to tell. He said, “When this story happened in 2006, that’s when I got a hold of the rights. I watched many people…the national pieces on ESPN and ABC, The Oprah Winfrey Show…and I was really moved by it.”. He continued, “We set it up at another studio back in 2006 and developed the screenplay. I thought it was pretty good and came close to making it and it just didn’t happen. When Disney+ announced their platform a few years ago, we brought it over and that thought it would be a great movie for them. And they agreed.”
Director Hudlin took over from there and said that Ray had it harder than most. “He’s the guy who made a way out of no way and the situation with failure was not an option. And I think, you know, that’s a really important message”.
Reeves said it was “amazing” to be part of the project. “This story was just so impactful to me that reading the desciption (of the role) made me leave everything and go pursue it”. He had not heard of Ray-Ray’s story before, and started researching as soon as he got the material.
Mixson said that he didn’t realize the film was based on a true story until his first day on set. He found an Oprah Winfrey interview and he wanted to show that same emotion on screen.
Foxx noted that she was one of the characters not based on a specific person. ” I remember asking Ray (laughing) hey, you know, ‘who is the real Kaycee’? And he goes, there was a lot of girls that are gonna think they’re Kaycee! “
Watch Safety now exclusively on Disney+.