In the movie, “Safety,” which comes out on Disney+ on Friday, Dec. 11, Ray-Ray McElrathbey, a football player at Clemson University in South Carolina, is forced to take care of his little brother during his freshman year on the team.
It is based on a true story. Jay Reeves plays McElrathbey, who played safety on the Clemson football team starting in 2006. McElrathbey takes in his little brother, Fahmarr, played by Thaddeus J. Mixson II, and jeopardizes his football career and college education to keep him safe after their mother goes into a drug rehabilitation program.
McElrathbey emerges as the obvious hero in the story. But when asked who is the hero of the movie, Reeves and McElrathbey had a different response. They said Fahmarr, who goes by the name Fay, was the true hero of the movie. Reeves and McElrathbey had different reasons for choosing Fay.
“I think Fahmarr is the hero of the movie. We wouldn’t be here today if Fahmarr didn’t exist,” Reeves said. “We wouldn’t be talking about this great wonderful film and have this story if the situation with Fahmarr, and Ray’s mother, she’s also a hero to me.”
McElrathbey said Fahmarr was the hero of the movie, too. But it was because Fahmarr was the motivation for McElrathbey to rise to the occasion and find a way to provide some stability for his little brother.
“Even in real life, Fahmarr was the catalyst that made me step up,” McElrathbey said. “I was a teenager, I was crazy, I was young. I wasn’t different from many other teenagers. Although I had a story, I hadn’t been asked to step and he put me in a position to, well, he kind of brought leadership to me. Fortunately I stepped in and I was ready to go. I can appreciate that.”
Fahmarr turned McElrathbey into a leader. If not for his little brother, McElrathbey might not have chosen that leadership path. He needed to focus on another person’s life and make it better.
Mixson II said he was a little surprised to hear he was the hero of the movie.
“That’s just crazy. It is amazing to be called the hero,” Mixson said. “I also think Ray is the hero for me too. He saved me. I don’t go to foster care if he don’t take care of me. I call him the hero too. I guess I’m the hero, too.”
Reeves and McElrathbey were also asked who they thought were the bad guys in the movie. There are plenty to choose from. The NCAA, the body that oversees college sports and sets the rules for teams and players that play college sports, is the easy target. But McElrathbey had a different choice.
“As far as bad guys in the movie, I would call myself a bad guy,” McElrathbey said. “Reason being, looking back, you always feel like there’s some situations you could have possibly changed. Me being, not necessarily a perfectionist, but one that wants to get a bunch of things right, I feel like there were a lot of things during those times that I didn’t get right, that I would much rather change now looking back at it.”Reeves said it is complicated trying to single out a villain in the movie.
“You can’t necessarily blame anyone for having rules or regulations prior to a situation,” Reeves said. “I don’t think anyone had ill will, it was just the situation.”
Reginald Hudlin, the director of the movie, said there are no villains in ‘Safety.’
“It’s just the unfortunate aspects of that circumstance,” Hudlin said. “You can’t even get mad at anybody. It’s a bunch of people being forced to do things that they don’t want to do. The coach’s wife wants to give him a ride, but she can’t because that would put them in more trouble. These terrible catch-22s that they’re all trying to survive, I like that. I like that people laugh, then 10 minutes later in the movie they’re crying.”
Safety premieres on Disney+ on Friday, Dec. 11,