Paramount Pictures film adaptation of the book The Freedom Writer's Diaries: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them, written by teacher Erin Gruwell and her students, wont be hitting theaters until - appropriately enough - January 12, 2007, the Friday prior to Martin Luther King, Jrs birthday. Even though we're still a couple of months away from the film's release, when I caught up with Freedom Writers cast member Vanetta Smith on the red carpet at the World Premiere of the creepy horror movie The Grudge 2, she was more than happy to talk about her work on the film.
Vanetta Smith Interview
How would you describe the story?
Its based on a true story. Its basically about Erin Gruwell. She was a teacher a Caucasian teacher who went into the inner-city of Long Beach. She helped these kids through the teachings of Anne Frank Anne Franks Diary and The Museum of Tolerance and everything like that. They didnt know anything about the Holocaust. They didnt know what the Holocaust was, and she was the only teacher that really believed in them so they gave her a chance.
Were you familiar with the story before signing on to the movie?
No, I was not. I was not familiar with it at all. Before we [began filming], we read the book Erin Gruwells book Freedom Writers. And then we went to The Museum of Tolerance and we saw Schindlers List to prepare for the movie.
Can you describe your character in Freedom Writers?
I play Brandy. Shes an inner-city kid that lives in Long Beach. Shes going through problems. Her dad hits her and beats her, and sells crack just to make it. Her mom steals and stuff like that. She has a little brother and a sister and she has to take care of them. Shes just hard. Shes quiet and into herself. Shes going through a lot of problems but she doesnt want to tell anyone. Hilary Swanks character, Erin Gruwell, she really helps Brandy through her struggle.
Brandy sounds like a tough character to play. Were you able to leave her behind at the end of the day?
No. I kind of went to sleep looking in the mirror and Im like, Wow, my dad beats me It was going through my mind when I got home. And then I had to get up the next morning and start crying again. It was a really emotional movie. I had to keep on crying, and that was hard.
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Freedom Writers was directed by Richard LaGravenese and is rated PG-13 for violent content, some thematic material and language.