In Disney+’s Safety, Ray (Jay Reeves) plays the position of “safety” at a college team where sports are their shining joy after obtaining a college scholarship. However, his life is turned upside down when his single mother goes into a rehab center, and his younger brother Fahmarr (Thaddeus J. Mixson II) is left at home without a family member to look after him. Ray makes the ultimate sacrifice to become the sole guardian of his brother instead of allowing him to go into foster care. The only issue? He has to sneak Fahmarr onto campus grounds where he will illegally stay until his mother can return home. What Ray thinks is going to be breeze, he soon learns the complications of balancing college life, romance, earning his spot on the football team and raising a child on his own.
Despite the many familial and legal challenges Ray faces, he learns it takes a village…and a campus to raise a child.
Based on a true story, Safety is about the true meaning of family, friends and the bond of a community; asking what would you do for family? Would you sacrifice it all to raise the one you love?
In honor of the film’s release, Disney held a press conference with Jay Reeves, Corinne Foxx, Hunter Sansone and Thaddeus J. Mixson about tackling this true story.
“Ever since day one I was overwhelmed with excitement. It was-it was crazy. I remember reading the description of the role in the story and dropping everything in that moment. As soon as I got the audition material I was like, ‘hey guys, I got to go home.’ And all my friends were wondering why I skated out of there,” Reeves admitted.
“I actually didn’t know anything going into it. I started my research as soon as I got the material. So, watching the YouTube videos and then also I followed Ray before I even got the role. I followed him on Instagram just to get a little bit ahead. I just dove in headfirst and got to know this fantastic story,” Reeves continued.
“But this story was just so impactful to me that reading the description made me leave everything and go pursue it. So, I’m so grateful to be a part of this project. It’s amazing,” Reeves said.
“It’s it’s a surreal experience. It’s a wonderful experience more so than anything. It was something I’ve been praying for one would say. I’m blessed and excited to have the opportunity to be here with all the people that are assembled to make this cast and crew and to be part of my life forevermore in the future. ‘Cause this is something I could have never thought of,” Reeves said with pride.
Having the real Ray on set was a major bonus for the cast, especially when it came to some of the more challenging scenes, especially during the major custody battle over Ray’s kid brother Fahmarr. For Reeves, it allowed him to shine as an actor.
“I remember on the day, I was actually sitting in the corner with, Thaddeus. And he’s just being himself and having a great time. And I got this heavy scene to do. But I think, that helped me a lot, sitting over there with him and his father and seeing their relationship and then putting myself in this position where I have to sign over for something like that, for that same type of responsibility, just hit my heart. And I just tried to be honest, just tried to be honest in what I would really feel like in that situation,” said Reeves.
“I believe in starting with the paper. But then, of course, as I got to know Ray, I would just dig in his brain. And I didn’t want to ask him, like, specific questions like that, because I wanted to feel it for myself. I didn’t want him to give me the easy answer to what that might have felt like” said Reeves.
Safety is a delight for a multitude of reason but the most important is the characters’ chemistry which is integral to the story about the bond of family and friends.
For Foxx, the 26-year-old daughter of Oscar-winning actor and musician Jamie Foxx, there was an additional, and unexpected challenge. Her character wasn’t based on just one person.
“The interesting part about my character Kaycee is, she’s one of the-one of the characters that’s actually not based on a specific person. I remember asking Ray ‘hey, you know, who is the real who is the real Kaycee?’ And he goes, ‘there was a lot of girls that are gonna think they’re Kaycee.’ So, we started with that,” said Foxx.
“But I was really attracted to the role. Because, I have two little sisters that are 12 and 13-years-old. And I could only imagine what I would do for them. I would do absolutely anything. And so, I think, that’s what attracted me to this story and then building out Kaycee. And she’s a sports reporter. She’s super persistent. She’s determined. And I’m very similar to her in that way. But she’s also a little bit more bold than I am. And so, that was really fun to play with,” Foxx continued.
“And then, obviously the chemistry I have with Jay. We did our chem test. And I remember leaving and going like, that went really well. That went really well. And obviously it did. ‘Cause I got the role. It was such a great experience. And I was the only-the only girl except for the woman who played, Ray’s mother in the cast,” Foxx stated.
However for Clemson’s football team member Sansone, who plays Ray’s team-mate Daniel Morelli, insisted it all got off to a flying start.
“Jay and I had the chemistry from Day One,” he said. “I pulled up to the building for the audition and saw him walking in and thought ‘That’s the guy who’s playing Ray.’ So I ran up to him and said, ‘Hey man, how you doing? I’m reading for Daniel!’ and he was like ‘Whoa, whoa! What’s going on?’ It was fun, and we just automatically had that Ray-Daniel chemistry from the beginning,” Morelli stated.
McElrathbey, who does everything he can to make a better life for himself and his brother, makes for an incredibly appealing character the audience can easily root for who is also flawed. However, what he is manages to accomplished is almost unimaginable…but only with the help of others.
Safety isn’t the average cookie-cutter inspirational sports movie, instead its purpose is to show its audience that winning off the field is much more important than on.
For Foxx, “family isn’t just about blood relations, and that’s what this movie is about. There are all these people in Ray’s life who are rooting for him who aren’t his blood relations but they are all there for him in that way.”
Safety will stream on Disney+ on December 11th.
Check out the full press conference in the video above.