Jessica Knight Henry in Talks True Story Behind Movie

ComingSoon Senior Editor Spencer Legacy spoke with Jessica Knight Henry about devotion and its description of his grandparents, Jesse and Daisy Brown. The movie now available in 4K, Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital.

“Jonathan Majors (Creed III) and Glen Powell (Top Gun: Maverick) stars in the epic and inspiring true story of two elite US Navy pilots who helped turn the tide of the Korean War’s most brutal battle: Jesse Brown, the first Black aviator in Navy history and the his fellow fighter pilot and friend, Tom Hudner,” reads the film’s synopsis. “Their heroic sacrifices and enduring friendships will ultimately make them the most famous wingmen in the Navy.”

Spencer Legacy: What did it mean to your family that JD Dillard, the director, wanted them involved in the project and was contacted earlier in the process?

Jessica Knight Henry: I think this is very important. Jesse’s story is very close to family and really very personal. The thought of a project going forward without our involvement gives us a lot of anxiety. But because [of] JD and his family background — his dad is a pilot — it meant a lot to him to be with us and he really understood the family’s perspective on this and guided us through the journey. So it really meant a lot and it really helped improve the relationship, I think, [with] the whole devotion team, the cast, the crew. But it really helps us all feel like family and when you share your family’s personal story, it means so much more.

When talking to Jonathan Majors, what exactly is known about his approach to learning about Jesse and how he wants to do his legacy justice in the film?

Jonathan is an amazing talent and he takes his work very seriously, diving deep into a role and really trying to make it work in some way. We were very fortunate that he had the opportunity to meet two of Jesse’s brothers early in the process. They were not with us at the time of completing the film, so we felt their blessing and the blessing of others. But not only did he know what was in the history about my grandfather, but he also made sure he had the anecdotes from the family and checked the letters.

[He] really tried to make sure he brought the character of Jesse to life in a truly multi-dimensional way. Even after filming was over, we recently found a record on Jesse’s draft card that the family had never seen, and we were able to share it with him and he was amazed. The fact that he was like, “Oh, I know his handwriting,” and it meant a lot to him. So even after we wrapped, I think the character has a lot of meaning and we’re just thankful to have that relationship with him.

What was it like to go on set and watch the movie being shot?

It was really surreal. I had the opportunity to go a few times with different family members and from understanding how a movie is made, which is like completely over my head. But from what it takes to get the big warbirds out there and see the planes – and really, the set design is amazing. You are on this runway on set and can see the level of detail and work that went into it. But if you see the movie together … I was with my nephew recently, and he was like, “Oh my gosh, the scene where they’re on the bridge!” And it happened to be like a crazy weather day in Georgia, so it worked out perfectly. So just like an insider… it’s like being at Disneyland or something, but getting it all together to see it all come together is really cool.

Your grandmother, Daisy, is so lovingly portrayed by Christina Jackson. How important is it to show his story as well?

So I will tell everyone — the most important characteristic that the devotion team must get right is the description of Daisy. With my grandfather, he was killed when my mom was less than two years old, so we always had an idea of ​​who he was based on people who knew him, but that personal relationship was never there. . But Daisy’s story is different. I grew up with him. He is one of my biggest role models and I am honored to be able to carry on the family legacy and so much in how I have seen him carry himself. So it’s very important that they get that right. I can’t imagine a better artist to come and play my grandmother.

I think Christina is someone who has such a lot of emotional intelligence, and she brings that and the care and wisdom and humor and all those things and all the stories and all the conversations. that we experienced – everything, from seeing a color of nail polish that I mentioned that my grandmother loved in a casual conversation and I saw that she wore it in the film. So it’s the little details that are heard and listened to. But I think, more than that, it’s very important for Daisy to be portrayed in the film because Jesse comes first, but Daisy also comes first. I think the idea of ​​a military spouse and that support and what it means to go through that and also for him to be alone in pioneering that in many, many ways…we’re glad that one glimpses of his story have been shared on screen as well.

The devotion received a lot of praise, especially for the performance in the Majors, but what did it mean to the millions who learned about your grandfather’s story?

It’s really scary. I think we always had an idea that the story of Jesse and Tom deserved to have this kind of praise in it, but they are members of your family and, again, we keep the story very close, so I really feel a lot of anxiety. about, “What does it mean if more people know about the story?” But just bringing awareness to the heroes that they were and, really, the inspiration that they brought… I’ve been very fortunate in my life, and now even more so. devotion being in the ecosystem, of people coming up to me and telling me how much it meant to my grandfather and what he did and how it inspired them and now they’re a pilot, or they’re leading this career now because the sacrifice he made.

I think this is an important story for our country – especially at a time when things are so overwhelming and divisive. Being able to share that on the world stage is so important. They are more than worth it. They are humble people with a passion and a dream. I think a lot of people can relate to just wanting to go out and do what you love.

I imagine that when you first watch the movie, it can be overwhelming. How did you and your family feel about taking that to see that play out on the big screen?

I cry every time I see the movie, but the first time we got it was amazing, because it was so many emotions and such a long journey – not just in the making of the film, but before that. Apparently there is a book, devotion by Adam Makos, and we spent a lot of time with the Hudner family… it’s about to be released. At that point you know, “It’s coming into the world. It’s okay.”

But they did well and it was emotional in a good way. It was cathartic and truly inspiring in many ways. But I recently, flew and saw it in an airplane for the first time, which I think is a suitable way for devotion to be consumed. But knowing a million times what’s going to happen – and knowing the history and it’s based on historical events – but it’s a gut punch and a reminder of what we lost when Jesse disappeared. But, it’s great to be able to memorialize it on film.

Even though the movie takes place in the 1950s, the themes and takeaways are still prevalent and important. Can you tell the importance of the story being told today?

Absolutely. I think there are many themes throughout devotion, but the inspiration and justice, again, to be able from humble beginnings, to dare to dream for something big despite any challenges you have or can overcome. The thought of leaving this lasting legacy and what it means for us to embrace our history and our past. But there are so many inspiring people and the way the commonalities and the threads… there’s more that unites us than separates us.

So I hope people recognize that and that there’s a lot of real value in knowing our entire history and all the individuals who have contributed to that fabric. devotion a good description of that and to see what they did at that time, to overcome the conventions and rules to create a true brotherhood – this friendship – and the heroes that they were. And they are doing everything for a country that they know can be better and are trying to be better. So it’s an amazing American story and we’re happy to be a small part of it and that the fabric of that lives on.

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