On the Today show, 9/12/2018, Matthew McConaughey sat down with Savannah Guthrie to discuss his role in the new movie “White Boy Rick.” This new role takes McConaughey from the typical ‘can solve anything’ kind of role to one of a dad who just can’t get it right.
Based on a true story, the movie is the story of teenager Richard Wershe Jr., who became an undercover informant for the FBI during the 1980s and was ultimately arrested for drug-trafficking and sentenced to life in prison. On the Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon, Matthew McConaughey discovered the star of White Boy Rick at the principal’s office in his high school! The 48-year-old actor just opened up about the casting process, which lead to first-time actor Richie Merritt landing the role.
“We’re looking for this role and it is a plum role! Actors from 12 to 18 all wanted this role of White Boy Rick. The director after two years hadn’t found quite the right kid,” McConaughey explained.
He continued, “What happens, in a principal’s office in Baltimore high school, on a street casting session…the principal says ‘That’s the little…you ought to start with right there.’ And this young boy, who understood life on the streets, comes in and gets the role! And he’s the lead in our film and he does a beautiful job.”
According to the team behind the movie, they auditioned tons of potential leading men, from experienced actors to total newcomers, and settled on one of the latter: Richie Merritt.
“We auditioned both real kids, with no experience, and also young actors. It was very important to us that we found someone with the authenticity and similarity in his background (to Wershe),” producer John Lesher told Deadline. When they found Merritt, “We all just fell in love with him. He has a natural charisma.”
Before he was a notorious 17-year-old behind bars, Richard Wershe Jr. (Richie Merritt) was a 14-year-old with an uneasy home life. Wershe Jr. christened White Boy Rick by his friends, watched his mom walk out on his their family. His dad, Rick Wershe Sr. (Matthew McConaughey), has a far-off dream of launching a chain of video stores, but for now, settles on wheeling and dealing guns both in legal and illegal ways. Rick’s sister, Dawn (Bel Powley), becomes an addict and leaves their home to run away with her boyfriend. By the time the F.B.I. recruits Rick to feed them information and infiltrate a local gang, it’s almost like a godsend, giving Rick an income and a lifestyle he never could have dreamed of—and a price he never could have imagined.
Richard Wershe Jr., was the only successful white boy gangster/drug kingpin in an African American dominated 1980’s Detroit. Jennifer Jason Leigh and Rory Cochrane will portray FBI agents who began working with Wershe as a confidential informant from the beginning.
White Boy Rick debuted at the Telluride Film Festival and will be released in theaters on Sept. 14 and is rated R.
Ref. justjared.com, The Tonight Show/NBC, popsugar.com, rogerebert.com
Photo via whiteboyrick.com/official movie poster