Tyrese Gibson and Terrence Howard have been staples in the entertainment industry for decades. They have played significant roles over the years that we all know and love. I first saw these two stellar actors together in the (2005) movie, “Four Brothers” and enjoyed the roles each of them played.  Fast forward to 2022, they have teamed up again in a movie along with Jeremy Piven and Lil’ Yachty, that highlights the corruption and savagery of the prison system and in doing so, they are shining a bright light on the dysfunction contained within it. The System is releasing in theaters on Friday, October 28th and will be available for video on demand November 4th.  To sum it up, The System is about a young soldier, Terry Savage (Tyrese Gibson), who has recently returned from war. He gets caught up in a drug bust and is then recruited by the authorities to go undercover in a notoriously dangerous prison to investigate what is really going on behind the scenes. When he discovers an underground prisoner fighting ring, the warden forces him to compete. In order to win his freedom, he must fight to stay alive as well as take down the warden’s corrupt system.

I had the opportunity to chop it up with Tyrese Gibson, Terrence Howard, and Jeremy Piven about their thought process in doing the film, and how they each navigated through balancing their personal views and experiences against the heavy-hitting roles they were playing. 

Tyrese…no matter what film you’re in, you consistently bring your A-game. Your movies are talked about scene to scene long after they are over. How much truth is mixed into a film like The System in comparison with real life situations that go on in prison?

The system itself is real life. Jeremy Piven’s character is playing the warden. You have to really become a real crazy sociopathic person. I almost liken prison to working in a mortuary. How do you not find yourself being emotionally and psychologically affected by being exposed to this level of death every single day? So, Jeremy Piven’s character plays the warden and they put me into this system and I’m just literally on a mission to get home to take care of my daughter who has blood clots in her head and has a major medical condition that can only be managed with medicine. I’m an ex-military brat and I get out and can’t afford medicine for her. These pharmaceutical companies are making it unbearable for the average man to be able to afford anything that can keep us healthy and alive. 

Jeremy, The System is not only a movie title, but it can kind of serve as a metaphor for so many things that are corrupt and questionable in our world. What message can you give our young people about keeping their head up and rising above a system that’s meant to keep them down?

Wow, well, we are in very, very strange uncomfortable times and I think playing this warden opened up a lot for me. Who I am is the anti theist of a warden in a prison. I have to separate myself from that and invest myself emotionally into this character in order to do this film justice. This guy is the devil, but we have to remember that when we play a character like this, no one is the devil in their own story. He’s a sociopath and I just immersed myself in it and as a person and a man, I also had to be available for Tyrese and his process in those scenes where he’s trying to figure out the best way to play his character and also to find the best dialogue. So, I had to embrace that duality where I’m there for my brother, but at the same time when they yell “action” I have to be the devil. So, we have to be schizophrenic. 

Tyrese (Yep, he was out of his mind.)

Terrance, your acting is incredible, your success has been tremendous, and you definitely know how to pull an audience in. In the movie, you play the role of Bones and take Tyrese, who plays the role of Terry Savage under your wing–how did you personally identify with your role for this particular movie?

Well, every one of us needs someone to help us get through the tough places. That’s why we have two legs because we can’t get anywhere on one by ourselves, you need another one to help you get along. That’s what I got more from the film, is the need for people to come together. In your most uncomfortable states, you have to allow yourself to become vulnerable because that’s the only way you can have hope. The idea of hope is powerful. Most of the people in this prison have no hope. 

They conducted an experiment many years ago, I think it was at Harvard or Yale where they had a some mice, and they would put them in a glass. The glass would only be a few inches wide, and it would be filled up with water just enough to where the mice would drown. The mice had to keep moving to stay up above the water. They found the very first mouse they used for the experiment died within twenty minutes. During the second round they put a mouse in there, but they pulled it out after ten minutes, and then they put it back into the situation. That mouse stayed alive for an hour because of the idea that there was hope. It was the hope that someone may come and fix this. The first mouse died because there was no hope, the second one stayed alive because of the possibility of hope. But our prison systems have created the loss of hope.

Tyrese, same question in a sense…you are the lead character, and the plot is all about you and wanting to help your daughter. How did you personally identify and mentally prepare for your role for this particular movie?

I could identify with him just by growing up in South Central LA. Pretty much all the homies I grew up with have been in and out of jail, my family, the foster care system, you name it. So, I have watched a million documentaries and have seen the levels of dysfunction, brutality and corruption and the sociopathic energy that is going on in prison, and you’re literally just a number. It’s modern-day slavery, it’s bad. 

Tyrese, what are your thoughts on the number of black males that make up the United States prison system?

The amount of black men that are in prison compared to any other race around the world just goes to show you they’re determined to keep us enslaved. I’m one of those people that believe if you do wrong, you gotta go do your time, but I’m also one of those people who believes we have always been given an excessive amount of prison time, while other nationalities and races are doing the same exact crime and getting a slap on the wrist and immediately released back into society. I don’t know what it is about black men being enslaved and keeping on that narrative. It was a painful journey to take.

I learned that The System was filmed inside of a real prison. Can you share the thoughts and emotions you had during the process?

We really did film this in Mississippi inside of an active prison, with real inmates. We had a very small budget, so we had to end up using actual inmates who had been on good behavior in the movie. It was a very toxic and uncomfortable environment, and it took me at least three months after I had finished shooting the movie to shake the energy off me because it wasn’t like we had shot this on a set that they had built, it was a real jail. The smell, the energy, the environment, seeing them with chains on their ankles, transporting inmates from one section of the jail to the next, it was all very real. It didn’t require much acting from any of us at all. I think that the reality hit all of us of how blessed we are that we actually get to go home every night.

Find out more about the movie by visiting the website: The System