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Cast of Disney’s ‘Safety’ discuss chosen family, chemistry on set of new film

by Susan and Simon Veness

Disney movies have produced a wealth of talent in recent years, introducing us to the likes of Kristen Stewart, Brie Larson and Demi Lovato in their younger days before they went on to became major stars. Now we can get ready for four new names that are all featured in the forthcoming release on Disney+, “Safety.”

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Jay Reeves as Ray Ray (left) and Thaddeus J. Mixson II as Fahmarr (right) in “Safety”, exclusively on Disney+

Jay Reeves, Corinne Foxx, Hunter Sansone and Thaddeus J. Mixson are the quartet in question, and the Fab Four were all front and center on Dec. 4 for a special online press conference in advance of the movie’s release.

“Safety” tells the story of Clemson University football star Ray McElrathbey and his battle to win a place on the team while also dealing with the legal custody of his younger brother, due to their mother’s drug rehabilitation.

Reeves, as Ray, came in new to the story, but was immediately sucked in by its drama and pathos. He admitted: “Well, I actually didn’t know anything [about it] but I started my research as soon as I got my material, watching YouTube videos [about Ray] and following him on Instagram. I just dove in head first and got to know this fantastic story.”

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Jay Reeves as Ray Ray in “Safety”

Having the real Ray on set was a major bonus for the cast, especially when it came to some of the more challenging scenes, notably during the major custody battle over Ray’s kid brother Fahmarr. For Reeves, it was a chance to really stretch his acting chops.

Prepping for that scene actually came with the script. I believe in starting with the paper, but then of course, as I got to know Ray, I would just dig into his brain. But I didn’t want to ask specific questions because I wanted to feel [the situations] for myself. I didn’t want him to give me the easy answer to what that might have felt like.

I remember on the day [of filming that scene] I was sitting in the corner with Thaddeus and he’s just being himself, having fun and having a great time, and I have this heavy scene to do! But I think it helped me a lot, because seeing him with his father and seeing their relationship, and then putting myself in the position where I would have to sign over [custody], that kind of responsibility really hit my heart and I just tried to be honest in feeling that situation.

Jay Reeves, who portrays Ray McElrathbey in “Safety”

Mixson added: “I really wanted to show on screen how Fahmarr felt and make sure it came across the right way. I didn’t know that it was based on a true story until I got on set the first day, so I also started searching and looked at an Oprah interview that they did [back in 2006] and I just tried to embody that as much as I could. I almost cried from just watching it because you could see the pain and I know he went through a lot.”

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Thaddeus J. Mixson (bottom) and Jay Reeves (top) in “Safety”

The characters’ chemistry and inter-play are integral to the story as well as the team ethic of Clemson’s mighty football team, and 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.”

For Foxx, the 26-year-old daughter of Oscar-winning actor and musician Jamie Foxx in only her second major role (after “47 Meters Down: Uncaged”), there was an additional, and unexpected challenge.

The interesting part about my character Kaycee is that she is […] not based on a specific person. I remember asking Ray, ‘Hey, who’s the real Kaycee?’ And he goes, ‘There are a lot of girls who’ll think they’re Kaycee!’

But I was really attracted to the role because I have two little sisters, just 12 and 13, and I could only imagine what I’d do for them. I would do absolutely anything for them. Kaycee’s also a sports reporter and is very determined, and I am similar in that way. She’s also a bit bolder than I am, so that was fun to play with, and obviously the chemistry I have with Jay, I felt the audition went really well and we just hit it off. It was such a great experience and, as just about the only girl in the cast, I felt very safe.

Corinne Foxx, who portrays Kaycee in “Safety”

For young actors, both Foxx and Mixson had some mature takes on the film-making process, and what they would take away from this latest Disney classic.

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Corinne Foxx as Kaycee in “Safety,” exclusively on Disney+

“Family isn’t just about blood relations, and that’s what this movie is about,” said Foxx. “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. And Kaycee kind of acts as a big sister to them all, working together to be there for Ray.”

And, asked to put himself in the shoes of other kids in the middle of desperate custody situations like Fahmarr’s, Mixson was insistent: “If you’re going through something like that just now, especially as a kid, just don’t give up. Keep going, because eventually there will be something good that will happen for you.”

Chemistry? Yes, this next generation of Disney stars has chemistry. And you can be sure this isn’t the only major movie interview session they’ll be doing in their young careers!

“Safety” is streaming exclusively on Disney+ starting Dec. 11. Be sure to see our full movie review later this week, and check out the trailer below:

Safety | Official Trailer | Disney+

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