Wood Harris and Ryan Hurst are remembering the Titans for their film's 20th anniversary.
The pair of actors, who played real-life football players Julius Campbell and Gerry Bertier in Remember the Titans, reunited to talk about the film's ever-relevant lessons two decades later.
In an interview with GQ magazine on Monday, Oct. 5, the actors spoke about how sports is affected by racism today. Specifically, they were asked about the Black Lives Matter movement and protests in pro sports, which have included players taking a knee during the National Anthem and wearing "I can't breathe" shirts.
Harris said, "Now, the business of sports is racist because we live in America, where the place is pretty much founded on racist principles."
He added, "If I'm a white guy, I can just watch Monday Night Football. I don't have to worry about a guy taking a knee for a cause of a culture that I'm not in. Those are the things that white people don't have to think about."
Hurst said that he supports players taking a knee in order to make a statement against racial injustice.
"A protest is a unifying factor to me. It brings people together against something else. I'm in full support of every sport that has been protesting in the way they have," The Walking Dead star said.
The pair then recalled a meeting they had with an unnamed white woman while filming Remember the Titans.
"And [Wood] said, 'Just watch how she treats you, watch how she treats me,'" Hurst recalled. "We went in there, I sat down, and I was talking with her, and she was on her elbows leaning close to me. Then Wood walked over and she moved her chair back a little, leaned back, crossed her legs, crossed her arms, and Wood looked over at me and nodded at me."
As for the important lesson it taught him about racism, Hurst reflected, "It just showed me, it doesn't matter how socially aware [you are]. Experientially, as a white man, you're born to be f--king ignorant."
Harris attributed the situation to a discrepancy between the way Black and white people in the U.S. view racism.
"I realize white people don't think about it because they don't have to," the Empire actor noted. "You can wake up in the morning and think, 'I want to study and get a job.' You can just go think about money. But I never had that as something I could do."
Journalist Jake Kring-Schreifels later brought up a scene in Remember the Titans when Ronnie Bass (Kip Pardue) brings his Black teammates to a restaurant, even though they won't be served in Alexandria, Va. "Ronnie doesn't listen and ends up embarrassing them. He couldn't comprehend there was racism at play," Kring-Schreifels said.
Harris replied that his mother grew up in the era when restaurants barred people of color. "But I can't feel that," the 50-year-old said. "That's why George Floyd was so paralyzing for everyone to a certain degree. ... There was an era where you wouldn't see somebody dying online. Now we can comfortably watch an officer put a knee on a person. It's showing you the degree of darkness that we've been ignoring."
Ultimately Harris said he's "glad" they created the film "that is apropos to the times. We told the right story. It's like perfect vision. You can rub your eyes and see clearly if you want to."
The film's moving chant "Left side, strong side" still resonates today. "[Fans] take with them a message of peace and unity," Hurst said. "All it takes is you're walking down the street in New York and you hear somebody yell, 'Left side!' And you're like, 'I did my job.' I'll never get over that. I'm just so honored to have been a part of it."