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An In-depth Conversation about the Award-winning Film "The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain"

Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain.jpeg
HBO Max
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Frankie Faison stars in the new David Midell film "The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain"

The award-winning David Midell film The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain, currently on HBO Max, is based on a real-life situation that took place on November 19, 2011.

68-year old Kenneth Chamberlain, a black former decorated Marine and former corrections officer, was shot and killed by White Plains Police who came to his house for a "wellness check" early in the morning after his life alert system activated accidentally. Chamberlain had a heart problem and suffered with Bipolar Disorder.

In the drama film written, produced and directed by Midell, Chamberlain repeatedly told the officers that showed up at his door that he was alright and they could leave. The officers, who were white, refused to go and demanded to come inside and check Chamberlain's apartment. Eventually, the officers broke down the door and an altercation ensued that led to Chamberlain being shot and killed. After an investigation, no officers were charged in connection with the death.

Kenneth Chamberlain is portrayed in the film by acclaimed New Jersey-based actor Frankie Faison. Faison and Kenneth Chamberlain Jr. joined WBGO News Director Doug Doyle to discuss the film and the case.

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Doug Doyle/Zoom
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Frankie Faison (upper left) and Kenneth Chamberlain Jr. (lower left) chat with WBGO Journal host and News Director Doug Doyle about the new drama film "The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain"

Kenneth Chamberlain Jr. described the relationship he had with his dad.

"Father and son relationship are tricky because he's your first superhero. He's the guy that can fix everything when you're a young child. And then as you get older, after he's taught you the difference between right and wrong, he begins to make you understand what consequences are about. I think that when I got older in my teen years that, of course, I did teenage things. But my father always supported me. He always stood by me, a man of integrity, a man of honor, someone who shouldn't have lost his life they way that he did."

Chamberlain Jr. says he looks at this father's Marine picture everyday.

"I have not mourned my father's death, ten years later. I've still been fighting to get, I've stopped saying justice, but I fight now to get some type of accountability in his killing."

Frankie Faison, who has spent more than 50 years in the entertainment industry, known for his roles in Do The Right Thing and Coming to America and television shows like The Wire, won the Gotham Award for "Outstanding Lead Actor" for his work in The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain.

Why did he take this role challenging and powerful role?

"As you know Doug, I really gravitate towards stories that are very compelling, will draw an audience into it and very character-driven. When I first received this script, it checked all the boxes. I didn't know the story. I didn't know the case and I live about an hour away from White Plains, but just reading it I was immediately drawn this man's life. I wanted to retell this story to the best of my ability." So upon reading this magnificent script by David and then talking about it a little bit, I just knew that it was an opportunity that I would not want to miss."

Morgan Freeman and Lori McCreary serve as executive producers of the film.

Kenneth Chamberlain Jr. says there are several reasons why so many people haven't ever heard of the way his father died.

"As a society, we've become so desensitized when it comes to these types of issues of police misconduct, brutality and criminality. People really didn't start waking up to situations like this until the killing of George Floyd and that was because we were in the midst of a pandemic when the world was, for lack of a better way of saying it, had stood still. So people were home. They were looking for things to do. So now everybody's eyes are glued to social media and they're watching a police officer place his knee on the neck of an individual and kill him. So, now it's waking people up. People began to see what people like myself have been talking about for years. That these things are happening. That they're not isolated incidents. But I think the City of White Plains did a good job of trying to cover it up, trying to sweep it under the rug, trying to make my father look like a suspect rather than a victim. That's the primary reason why people never heard about it."

Chamberlain Jr. says he and Frankie Faison have grown extremely close during the filming.

"This is my new dad now. You know interestingly enough somebody said to me, a very close friend of mine who I look at as a mother, she said you know the police stole your father from you and now Frankie has stepped in and just assumed that role. He called me the other day, just to fully disclose, my mother passed away this Sunday (January 9) and Frankie called me immediately, just to hear my voice, just to check on me, just to make sure I was okay. I often when I speak to him I say hey dad!"

Faison admits this may have been his most challenging role.

"This piece is a culmination of everything that I've learned as an actor."

You can see the entire interview here.

Doug Doyle has been News Director at WBGO since 1998 and has taken his department to new heights in coverage and recognition. Doug and his staff have received more than 200 awards from organizations like PRNDI, AP, New York Association of Black Journalists, Garden State Association of Black Journalists and the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists.