United Kingdom

Adam Tanswell

Adam Tanswell is an award-winning journalist from London. Alongside his current editorial position as Hollywood Correspondent for the UK movie magazine Total Film, his prize-winning articles have been published in British publications including Radio Times, SFX, Metro, SciFiNow, First News, OK!, and Digital Spy. On television, his filmed interviews have appeared on UK channels such as MTV, Comedy Central, and ITV.

In Los Angeles, Adam is a member of the LA Press Club and BAFTA LA. He is accredited with the MPA and has been a member of the HFPA since 2015. He’s also an active member of the NUJ (National Union of Journalists) in the UK and served on the Preselection Committee for the Monte Carlo Television Festival’s Golden Nymph Awards.

Adam started his publishing career at The Daily Telegraph in London, after obtaining a top-honors university degree in Economics. Alongside his 25-year career in journalism, he also worked at the BBC in London as Press Officer on iconic television shows including Blue Peter, Neighbours, and Newsround.

In his spare time, Adam volunteers with CORE and other charitable organizations. As a volunteer, he has assisted at various LA Film Festivals, Operation Gratitude, and the LA Regional Food Bank.

  • Interviews

Jay-Z and Jeymes Samuel Discuss “The Harder They Fall”

Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Regina King, LaKeith Stanfield, Zazie Beetz, and Delroy Lindo are just a handful of the acclaimed actors who appear in the western The Harder They Fall. The revenge-filled story follows a charismatic assortment of gunslingers, bandits, and outlaws in a fictional tale about real historical figures.

It’s the debut feature film of British director Jeymes Samuel, who joined up with The Harder They Fall producer Jay-Z for a recent conversation with fans, influencers, and media on Twitter Spaces. Here are some of the edited highlights:


What were some of your inspirations behind The Harder They Fall?

Jeymes Samuel: My inspiration for the Black cowboys in the story was all the books I’ve read since I was 13 years old. I didn’t have to do any research for the story because I literally live and breathe this stuff. I love it. There are so many characters that didn’t make it into the movie; real ones that really existed – but God willing, me and Jay will venture back this way to the Old West again.


What movies inspired the Western project?

Jeymes Samuel: I am addicted to film and I pay homage to a bunch of different films in The Harder They Fall. When you see Regina King point in the teaser trailer, that’s my homage to Malcolm X. There’s a bunch of Westerns that I pay homage to, too. For a Few Dollars More is one. 

Jay-Z: I think the inspiration pulls from a lot of different things, not just Westerns. It just so happens that that’s the setting. Using that setting, we were able to take advantage of the richness of all these people that existed at that time. We were able to tell their stories and bring them to life on screen in a major way – but it pulls from a lot of different genres.


How true-to-life is this portrayal of these historical figures in the story?

Jay-Z: The story isn’t accurate to their lives, but every single character existed in that time.

Jeymes Samuel: That’s right. While the story itself is fictional, every single character is a real person that really existed in the Old West. Bass Reeves [played by Delroy Lindo in the movie] was the inspiration for The Lone Ranger. They used his life and his tales for The Lone Ranger – but obviously, they wouldn’t make him Black. They made the Lone Ranger white – and that was always the case for our people. Our experiences would get erased from that time and place.

Jay-Z: There’s a scene where Nat Love [Jonathan Majors] tells Bass Reeves something like, “You and your gang brought in Rufus Buck.” Bass says, “I brought in Rufus Buck alone.” That was the moment where Jeymes told you who he was, the Lone Ranger.


What other important characters from history are included in the story?

Jeymes Samuel: Pretty much through the movie, there are characters from Cherokee Bill and Rufus Buck to Stagecoach Mary, Trudy Smith, and Nat Love. These people have whole legacies behind them, so it’s like an education as well. You can come away knowing that there’s more to our history than what we’ve been told. If you take away a brick from a house, the whole house is unstable. If you remove the front wheel of a Bugatti, you have the worst car on the planet. To me, that’s what happens when you remove people of color from a genre. If you tell a little bit of a false history, you have an entire false history. It’s a domino effect. That’s why we broadened the scope with The Harder They Fall and we give you more of a truth.


Can you talk about the casting process behind the movie?

Jeymes Samuel: These people [from history] were so dope. They were superheroes in real life, so I wanted to bring in the superheroes of today to portray these people and accurately portray the story that I wanted to tell. Obviously, it’s not a biopic, so I wasn’t looking for likeness in physicality – but I wanted them to accurately put forward the story. What we were looking for was not an actual likeness. For example, the real Rufus Buck was of mixed heritage and the Rufus Buck Gang was executed when Rufus Buck was 18. Idris Elba is amazing, but he ain’t 18.


How much of a challenge was the casting process?

Jeymes Samuel: It’s tricky because when you cast Regina King, Idris Elba, and LaKeith Stanfield as ‘bad guys’, who are you going to cast opposite them that we’re going to root for? When you have Idris Elba, Regina King, and LaKeith Stanfield on a screen, you’re immediately on their side. That’s like seeing Muhammad Ali fighting in a ring. It doesn’t matter who he’s fighting against, you’re on his side. It’s a really tricky thing, so you have to have precision casting. And I’m casting a slew of relatively unknown faces. At the time I cast Jonathan Majors, The Last Black Man in San Francisco wasn’t even out, let alone Lovecraft Country. He was a relative unknown.


How did you piece together the final cast list?

Jeymes Samuel: Me, Jay and [producer] James Lassiter would be at Jay’s house with a board of all the actors. We’d put all their pictures against each other, and we’d spend hours talking about casting; about making the right gumbo for the visual palette. It was an exciting process, but it took a lot of thought. It wasn’t easy.


Was it an easier process to sign up your acting wish-list?

Jeymes Samuel: You never know whether actors are going to do it. I didn’t know Regina King was going to join us. She was doing Watchmen when I spoke to her, but she hadn’t chosen her next project and I didn’t know if she was going to star in the movie of a debut director. We had a FaceTime and she agreed to do it. I guess she understood my brand of lunacy, because I’m a crazy guy. The casting itself was a labor of love. Me, Jay, and James Lassiter had real fun doing that and I think we were really, really fortunate that people agreed to join us.


How did the pandemic affect filming?

Jeymes Samuel: We were a day before shooting and then this worldwide pandemic happened, so we had to make this movie navigating all of that. Imagine… This is my debut movie and I’m ready. I’m ready with all the music and all the scripts, and all the actors – but the next minute we’re told that you have to wear a mask over your face. Now you have to wear goggles and a face shield, and you can’t stand closer than six feet with any actor while you’re directing your debut feature film, which is a period-piece Western with horses. It was literally one massive obstacle.


How did you combat that?

Jeymes Samuel: I’d play music on set. I’d blast music out and we’d all be jamming between takes. That kept everyone happy. I always say that the movie we make is for the public, but the making of the movie is for us; it’s for the cast and crew, and everyone involved in making the film. I wanted to give everyone a super dope time.