Jeremy Pope says gay military drama The Inspection helped him ‘heal’ from past trauma

Jeremy Pop wears a black blazer and gold chain while smiling on the red carpet at the 38th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

Queer actor Jeremy Pope has expressed gratitude for his role as Ellis French in indie film The Inspection, explaining how it helped him to “heal” after experiencing homophobia.

In The Inspection, Pope’s character is a Marine Corps recruit who joins the force during the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy era, when LGBTQ+ people were banned from the military service.

While the film is based on the true experience faced by its director, Elegance Bratton, Pope has explained in a new interview with The Guardian how the role helped him come to terms with his own experiences of discrimination.

“It was healing. I was able to put into this character things I had dealt with personally. I could say things and affirm Jeremy Pope through Ellis,” he said.

“[Ellis] gets to a place of self-respect where he only moves toward what serves him, and that’s something I’ve had to navigate as a Black queer artist. There are certain rooms and energies that don’t serve you, and it’s not your job to contort yourself to try to be a version of you that isn’t authentic.”

Pope is referring to an incident he faced before joining The Inspection cast, in which a director voiced concerns that he couldn’t fulfil the role of straight man because he’s gay.

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Delving further into the experience, Pope said the director “alluded to what he saw as my inability to connect with a female co-star because I don’t sleep with women”.

“As an actor, you don’t wanna feel like after every take you’ve got to go: ‘Didya believe it?’ I never want to be difficult, but you have to ask: ‘Is this pouring anything into my cup?’ So I walked away from a studio film.”

The actor, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Ellis earlier this year, has previously expressed how he felt he had to walk away from the studio to “choose” and “serve” himself.

“I had to say ‘eff that energy,’” he told Variety last month.

The Inspection director Elegance Bratton told PinkNews last year why the decision to cast Pope was a conscious one, as he wanted to accurately portray the experiences of Black queer men in America.

“The reason why we had to cast an out queer Black actor is because Black queer people in the United States are going through a lot of turmoil,” Bratton explained.

“One out of two will be HIV positive in their lifetime. They are eight times more likely to commit suicide and be homeless…. We wanted to create a character that can make Black queer people feel really proud of themselves.”

Continuing his conversation with The Guardian, Pope expressed his love for the film, and how seeing himself represented on screen would have impacted him growing up.

Pope had a warm relationship with his pastor father, but often had to endure listening to his homophobic sermons. Having access to a film like The Inspection could have shown him that queer, Black men can still thrive.

“I think how much of a gamechanger this film could have been for me growing up and wanting to be an artist, but not seeing that represented in the mainstream,” he said.

“You wonder: ‘Is that even possible? Is that something I can put up on my mood board?’”