While crafted as a tense thriller, Traffik also shines an ugly light on human trafficking.
The story centers on a couple, Brea and John (Paula Patton and Omar Epps), who decide to spend a romantic weekend in the mountains, but after an encounter with some unsavory characters at a local gas station, they find themselves entangled with a human trafficking ring. As the men begin to terrorize the couple, Brea and John realize they are on their own and fight back for survival.
WLE’s Kit Bowen sat down for an exclusive chat with star Paula Patton and had an engaging conversation about the film and its subject matter, about teaching female empowerment from a young age – and who she’d love to play in a movie [Hint: It’s a man!]
So, human trafficking… this movie really scared the crap out of me. I mean, I have a daughter, but how would I even warn her about this?
Paula Patton: Really, there are two things. One is I really believe we need to start calling this what it is. It’s slavery. It’s not modern-day slavery, no. It’s slavery in the modern day. Some people, yes, it’s scary, you can get kidnapped, absolutely. But a lot of people are preyed upon are insecure and they are not confident and they have no community.
I don’t know how to fix the problem right now, but I’m thinking about prevention. I really believe that our young people, it starts in kindergarten, in homeroom. You start teaching the power of positive thinking and that your intuition scientifically will help you. Believe in it, so that you won’t be so easily swayed by somebody that comes in and talks to you and woos you into something because you’re powerless.
I’m sure you can understand something. I’m 42 years old and as you get older you read all these self-help books and all of this, and you gotta undo all the bad patterning and lies that they told you when you were young. Versus, why don’t we teach them that now?
You know what I would say, also? Trust that gut. I bet if you look back at every police record, almost every person that got themselves into situations said, “I just had a feeling before I came down that corner, but I did it anyway. I was going to not do this, but then you know…” If you listen to [your gut], it protects you more often than not.
One thing I learned when I was younger is that you walk with purpose. Even if you don’t know where you are going, you walk like you know where you are going.
Patton: Absolutely. And I say take that one step further which is when you walk, do it with an energy and strength. You can’t imagine but really that energy works, that power of your mind, that thinking that no one is going… and somehow they go, “I don’t know why I didn’t approach her, but I didn’t.” We are powerful, without a gun, without anything else.
That’s why this movie is so great because you’re so kick-ass in this, even if you get beat up a little.
Patton: Yeah, but I gotta be honest with you, I love it. It’s fun for me. I like to get dirty and get in the mud and get scrappy with everybody. It also helps the acting because I’m upset at this now, but I’ve never been dragged out of a car before. So how do you do it, unless somebody drags you out of a car, and it’s real? Then you’re going to get a real reaction. The truth is, I didn’t have to have a skill set, I didn’t train for this, you just go in like you would or your daughter would and be like AHHHH! You know, fight for your life.
I’m inspired by the fact that these stories are now being made, where the woman is not the victim.
Patton: Right. It’s the reality of it. It just seems like all the bad, but it’s not that, it’s about the fact that all of us have it in us. You know? There was a month after we finished shooting, [director] Deon [Taylor] sent me this article about a blonde woman, young, mom, wife, jogging and then she disappeared. For months, they finally found her the back of one of these trucks with many other women – super skinny, bruised, the whole thing, but she was alive. And I say is that before she took that jog, and someone told her what she would have endured, she would have said “No”, but she is alive and that speaks to human spirit. Our will to survive. We are stronger than we know. We should take it with us more often, seriously.
We really are!
Patton: We have a different kind of tenacity and ability to endure. We might not have some physical strength that men have, but I believe there is another thing. That is why the partnership is good, we need each other. There needs to be more equality. It has been too long, the imbalances are crazy and it’s made people crazy. Older women who are used to the way that things were, even me, it takes a lot of time to undo all of this inferiority complex we’ve been given. Just by, our moms, even and grandmas are like, “Oh, they’re men, you got to let them do this.” It’s hard to undo this thinking, but we’ve got to work hard to do it.
I’m going to be completely honest with you, but I don’t know if it can be completely undone.
Patton: I think eventually it can be. We might be grandmas, but we’re going to see it. These young people are moving faster than ever. Think about how the gender fluidity and sexual fluidity, and I really believe in race, too. When I was younger, it was important to stand by being an African American because the people who were mixed, it was a thing to separate yourself from black people because black people were so disadvantaged. But I think now there is a new day, where I go, no, these are all of me. I might be Dutch and German and African American and Native American and in that, then can’t we all be more human? If there is gender fluidity then we are human. I really keep trying to say, “This is a good human, not a good man, but a good human.” But fear is our worst enemy.
It’s human nature to fear, unfortunately.
Paula Patton: It is. We can fight it, though, every day we can fight it. And think about it, if you were taught that since you were in kindergarten think about how much more advanced you’d be because you wouldn’t have known anything else.
I think you need to be in a superhero movie.
Patton: I would love to do that! I mean I love Black Panther, if there is a role for me, please put me in it! I was just blown away by Black Panther. I thought for that genre it did an excellent version of that kind of a movie. It would be an honor to be a part of something like that.
Is there a person like in history that you would love to play?
Patton: Tiger Woods. I mean it. I just think that the character would be fascinating, you know?
Do you think we can actually move to that where a woman can play a famous man?
Patton: I absolutely do. Let’s speak it into existence, you never know. That’s the power of words. That’s what I wanted to say all along. The same thing is that we can’t talk about negative and think that anything is going to get better. We’ve got to really try and change our words as well.