With all the divisiveness in the country right now, one can appreciate stories of hope and that is what Amazon Prime is offering with the release of The Ride.
Based on the real-life story of BMX champion John Buultjens, The Ride, streaming on Amazon, tells the story of a teenage boy who overcame his white supremacist/abusive childhood upbringing and got a second chance at life when he was fostered – and then adopted – by an interracial couple.
“When I first read the script, there was this idea of giving somebody a second chance, fostering a child that was raised in different circumstances and who didn’t really have the education to learn about themselves or what it could feel like to be in a safe and loving home,” Sasha Alexander, who stars as John’s adoptive mother Marianna Buultjens, tells Monsters & Critics. “And so, giving somebody the second chance to just learn about love and family really got to the heart of it for me.”
John was put in juvenile detention as a young boy. The fact that he had a Swastika cut into his neck behind his ear caused him constant conflict with the Black detainees and he finally saw a way out of that dangerous situation when Eldridge (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) and Marianna agreed to foster him.
But John doesn’t take to having a Black foster father at first, and Marianna, as kind of heart as she is, has to take a tough stance with him.
“She’s tough with him when she realizes that he is reacting the way that he is to Eldridge,” Alexander continues. “She knew that he was raised a racist. And so, when he’s behaving that way, she reacts to him rather quickly and nips it in the bud rather fast. She’s not tiptoeing around it.”
Eventually, John discovers BMX extreme biking and everything changes. As a result of his newfound passion, the family bonds, builds a loving relationship and John finds redemption.
M&C spoke more with Alexander about meeting the real-life Marianna, albeit via FaceTime, working with Ludacris, and how she hopes young people will watch the movie and it will lead to change.
Monsters & Critics: This was set in the 1990s, and while it wasn’t that long ago, she still seems as if she was a progressive woman. Tell me about her.
Sasha Alexander: I think that she’s somebody that definitely leads with an open heart. You can tell by the scene when she talks about Eldridge’s past that she fell in love with a man who suffered a terrible trauma as a child because of the color of his skin.
He was a talented wrestler; he was off to the Olympics, and everything was taken away from him. And so, he suffered and that’s who she fell in love with. Because of what he went through, he isn’t able to have children, and so, that led them down a different path.
She’s definitely a devoted person. She definitely leads with a lot of heart and love. And I think that they’ve come to a place in their life where they were really ready for something like this with John.
It also feels to me that she was somebody that really thought about all the things that could go wrong, so I don’t think they went into it lightly. I think that they really put a lot of thought into it and manifested this for their family.
M&C: Marianna is a real woman. Did you get to meet her? And is there more of a responsibility playing a real-life person?
Sasha: Yeah, absolutely. John Buultjens, who the story is based on, was on set with us the whole time, so we have FaceTimed with his mom. His parents live in Scotland. I never met them in person, but we were able to communicate with them via technology.
But John was there on set. And so, he was a huge compass for me in terms of understanding how truthful we were to what he had experienced. And, oftentimes, we would finish a scene and he’d come over and just hug me and be so moved because he felt like I had captured his mother’s spirit.
That meant so much. And, obviously, that was such a bonus. Because as an actor, you have the director, but you rarely have somebody sitting there telling you, “Oh, my goodness. How did you reach my mom? That’s exactly how my mom made me feel. That’s exactly what she did for me.” And so, that was really so incredible to experience and made the filming and the experience of it so enriching for me.
M&C: What was it like working with Ludacris, because we think of him in terms of music, more than acting actually. What did he bring to Eldridge?
Sasha: He’s lovely. He’s a real gentleman. He is a class act. He was very easy to fold into a relationship with because he’s a kind soul.
So, he naturally leads into that sense of family and the intimacy that you have to develop with each other. Also, I think he’s really funny, so he really used his humor for Eldridge in a way that I think really helped take the onus off of a lot of the uncomfortable moments.
In one of the scenes, he adlibbed the line about making John lunch with white bread and Wonder toast and made like crackers and cheese. He made this joke and it was so funny, I really laughed and they kept it in the movie, and that was all improv.
It was something that just came out of him. I think that that humor really helped us warm up to Eldridge in a way that didn’t make those exchanges so earnest and intense, but really lightened them in a way that helped us understand the characters better.
M&C: Racism starts at a young age. Do you feel that The Ride gives hope that people can change?
Sasha: I believe that we’re in a really confused period in this country where I think the clarity of just being a human being that is accepting of other human beings and their journey and not judging people from what they’ve gone through, but what they haven’t learned, and what they can learn is giving everybody a break.
And so, I feel like this movie could not be more important. I really hope that young audiences see it, because I think that that was the intention, as well. It’s why they kept it PG 13 and didn’t lean into the violence, so that younger people could see something that maybe makes them think twice before judging looking at people, because we all only know what we’re taught.
M&C: I’ve seen your husband’s [Edoardo Ponti] film The Life Ahead, which stars your mother-in-law Sophia Loren, so are you ready to hit the Oscars this year? And was there ever any thought of you acting in the film?
Sasha: No, there was no role for me in it. I wish there was, but I was there on set for the entire filming and we’re so proud of it. It’s been an amazing family journey for all of us. I’m proud of my mother-in-law. She is extraordinary in the movie. So, yes, from your mouth to God’s ears.
We’re just really happy that the film has been received the way it has, and that the message is being shared around the world through Netflix and through Palomar. It’s a movie that always touched us. We always felt like it was a film that was important for people to see and now they are.
It was such a great experience. So, I’m really happy about it. It just happened to be that they landed on the same day, these two movies, which is funny. I love it. I’m really proud of my husband, as well.
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