‘Red Tails’ Cast Learned From Real Tuskegee Airmen

'They were there to validate and chastise our decisions at the same time,' Elijah Kelley said of airmen's role.

There was a lot of pressure on the cast of the upcoming true-life World War II drama, “Red Tails.” Not only did they have to honor the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American air regimen in the U.S., but they also had to appease the actual airmen who worked as consultants on the film.

MTV News sat down with Tristan Wilds, Elijah Kelley and Ne-Yo to discuss the relationship between the actors and the real-life historical figures.

Wilds explained that having some of the real Tuskegee Airmen on the set of “Red Tails” made things both easier and harder. With the added pressure came a real sense of insurance.

“It’s hard. It definitely is pressure because you’re holding the historical importance of these guys basically in your hands while you’re creating this film,” Wilds said. “But I think having them on set and being there with us and helping us with everything, it kind of made everything so much easier.”

Kelley summarized the airmen’s dual role on the film, saying, “they were there to validate and chastise our decisions at the same time.”

Ne-Yo learned the hard way that when you want to portray real-life figures, you’re responsible to them for even the smallest of details. “A few of the existing Tuskegee Airmen were on set making sure that everything was as genuine and authentic as possible to the point where they would grab you and shake you and straighten your tie and pull your pants up and pull your belt,” Ne-Yo said. “They would go that far, and you basically just had to take it.”

All the men agreed that when it came to taking orders from the real deal, you had little choice but to accept their tips. “An 80-plus-year-old man grabs you and fixes your belt, you might just want to let him do it,” Ne-Yo said.

Wilds agreed, saying, “It’s a lot of years of strength.”
Are you planning on seeing “Red Tails”? Let us know in the comments.

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