The Harder They Fall is now streaming on Netflix. Jeymes Samuel’s violent western features a star-studded cast that includes Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Zazie Beetz, Regina King, and LaKeith Stanfield.
“When outlaw Nat Love (Jonathan Majors) discovers that his enemy Rufus Buck (Idris Elba) is being released from prison he rounds up his gang to track Rufus down and seek revenge,” says the official synopsis. “Those riding with him in this assured, righteously new school Western include his former love Stagecoach Mary (Zazie Beetz), his right and left hand men — hot-tempered Bill Pickett (Edi Gathegi) and fast drawing Jim Beckwourth (R.J. Cyler)—and a surprising adversary-turned-ally. Rufus Buck has his own fearsome crew, including “Treacherous” Trudy Smith (Regina King) and Cherokee Bill (LaKeith Stanfield), and they are not a group that knows how to lose.”
ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with The Harder They Fall star Zazie Beetz about her portrayal of Stagecoach Mary, her chemistry with Jonathan Majors, and the on-screen rivalry with Regina King.
Tyler Treese: Stagecoach Mary is such an interesting historical figure and you get to bring such an interesting version of her to life here. What did you do to prepare for this role, knowing that you’re embodying such an iconic figure in history?
Zazie Beetz: Overall I felt like I wanted to read about people living during this time, not just Mary, but like all the characters and figures beyond that. I did feel like, just based essentially on like the script and the story written, that the Mary that was in the film was sort of inspiration of sort of all people of this time. I felt like I was able to sort of take the spirit of Mary Fields and what I learned about her and apply her to Mary in the movie.
But there is sort of not a lot of historical parallels between the character and the actual person. We talked a lot about filling in the blanks of where sort of storylines were. Like Nat [and] Mary being in love was never a part of actual history. So we had to create our own backstory around that. That’s where it’s sort of a thing, a lot of the fiction elements come in overall. But that still didn’t stop me from reading about Mary and learning about her and seeing how I could imbue elements of her into this character as well. It’s been cool for me. It was really lovely for me to learn and it’s been cool to sort of see, as people have been talking to me about the film, how much they’ve been learning about all these characters because of this film. I hope that, like, it sort of opens the doors to revisiting how we see the west in general, and the kinds of characters that can be included in future films.
You mentioned the love story in the film. The chemistry between yourself and Jonathan Majors is so electric on screen. Did you work much off-screen to develop that or did it just come naturally?
I think there’s always a bit of natural involved, which is why they have, although we didn’t do a chemistry read, but usually they have chemistry reads for films because I think you either have chemistry or you don’t. But I think you definitely got to nurture it and Jonathan and I did a bunch of rehearsals before we started shooting with Jeymes, who really allotted a good amount of time before shooting commenced for all of us, all the characters, I think we rehearsed basically every scene in the film multiple times. Really like laying down the foundation and how we all interact with each other and what our interpersonal relationships are.
Part of that was Jonathan and I establishing Mary and Nat. So we did spend time figuring out what our backstory was, things that don’t come up in the film at all, but I think you can potentially feel based on the decisions we made. I think that’s a part of any actor’s journey, but we were lucky enough that we were given time to kind of figure things out, which isn’t always the case.
Some of my favorite scenes in the film are with you and Regina King. I thought they were just so good and the fight scene was fantastic. How was it like working with her?
She’s great. I just really enjoy Regina. I kind of feel a little bit like a little sister to her. She was really great at sort of taking care of everybody on set. She’s a wonderful presence on set and our characters, we were kind of opposites in a way in this. We’re not opposites in the film, but we were each other’s villains essentially. We ended up spending a lot of time together and so it was just fun to play with her play off of her. I feel like we had a really lovely bond that has carried to after shooting as well. I’m excited to work with her again, which I’m hopeful will happen for sure.