With February being Black History Month – honoring the triumphs and struggles of African Americans throughout U.S. history – we caught up with Driving While Black star and writer Dominique Purdy for a chat on acting, the film, the experience of people of color in dealing with the police, what births the "fuck the police" attitude in youth, what we can do about it as individuals and much more.

Driving While Black is a fierce, truly Kafkaesque satire that everyone should see. It is based on real experiences Purdy has had with the police from his teenage years to today and is ever so relevant in an era where deadly experiences with police and people of color seem to be happening with increasing regularity since Michael Brown and Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. The whole thing is Kafkaesque when often the people being singled out and harassed by the police as bureaucratic enforcers, are targeted for no other reason than their race.

We should all be upset when that kind of treatment occurs, no matter the color. Yet, police harassment can and does happen to more and more people precisely because of over-policing as a result of the Drug War and the cops being weaponized when they are in the role of collecting revenue for the state for non-crimes like not wearing your seat-belt or in the abuses of civil asset forfeiture; to even the police shooting the wrong people when executing a no-knock search warrant on the wrong house entirely. Even pets are often not immune with some officers executing dogs with impunity – there's even a national database tracking these "puppycide" numbers.

All those things are directly attributable to over-policing. When you make nonsense things – like not wearing a seat-belt or possessing a little pot – crimes you still create real criminals. The way those "criminals" are handled is always harassing, and far too often that harassment is based purely on the race of the "suspect". This is a problem we should all be worried about and doing what we can to stop.

In Driving While Black, Dmitri (Purdy) is a pizza guy who would rather smoke weed and suffer for his art, but his mom and his girl won't stop nagging him to get a real job. When he's offered a gig mouthing off to tourists behind the wheel of a Hollywood "star tour" bus, it looks like everyone might get what they want. Trouble is, our man can't seem to step out the door to get to the interview without endless complications: busted radiators, simple weed scores gone sideways and LAPD cruisers seemingly everywhere. Dmitri's skill at going unnoticed by cops is honed by painful experiences growing up black in L.A., but even his keen survival instincts won't save him from the week from hell.

Dominique Purdy in the behind the scenes shot from DRIVING WHILE BLACK.

With a jovial swagger to its walking pace, Driving While Black is half comedy of errors and half hard-bitten realism, tucked into a sly treatise on 21st-century over-policing. Enjoy the interview below and catch Driving While Black on digital now.

Hello Dominique and welcome to The 405! To start things off, what initially inspired the film? DWB is so timely not just from (sadly) what is happening in society but also in film with movies like Green Book and BlacKkKlansman. Seeing especially the racism and discrimination in Green Book paired with the racism in Driving While Black made me wonder, have we really come that far from 1962?

The inspiration for Driving While Black came from just that "Driving While Black " It's my experiences growing up dealing with the cops in LA since being a kid up to the present time. Police prejudice against black people and other people of color is always gonna be a timeless topic in the culture!

A sad thing indeed.

This movie was shot in 2014 and first premiered at the El Rey Theater on Wilshire Blvd. [Los Angeles] on June 30th 2015 to a packed house. We had to turn people away to not violate the fire code on capacity.

Great you had that kind of turnout.

I believe we sparked a wave with DWB in this era of Hollywood wanting to invest in more black stories on film and TV. Look at some of the most popular movies and show since 2016: Insecure, Atlanta, Random Acts of Flyness, Get Out etc.

From DRIVING WHILE BLACK.

We definitely have made a lot of progress since 1962 . Niggas couldn't even eat at the same restaurants as white people without gettin' sprayed with a hose or the Ku Klux Klan burning a crucifix in front of their house later that night.  Racists never went away – just got quieter because it became less cool to be so blatant. Is there whole lot of progress to be made? You damn right!!!

I'd add in a movie that DWB kind of reminded me of: Boots Riley's incredible satire Sorry to Bother You. Of course, DWB didn't go full-on surrealist like Riley's movie but I see them as both very satirical.

The rest is true too. I suppose it can be just hard at times to be hopeful in the current cultural climate. What did your collective process look like on writing the film with Paul [Sapiano]?

I've known Paul for a cool minute so when we would kick it I would always be telling him some shit that happened to me with the cops. Even though it was wild shit, I'm so used to it I can see the humor in it of how ridiculous it is that black people have to have these feelings and take certain precautions when dealing with the police. So we would start writing some of these stories down to start forming what would become the film.

DWB was a fiercely satirical and darkly comedic piece (in a sort of neo-Kafkaesque absurd way) that is sadly far too true to life. Dominique, what would you like our readers to know who don't have to go through these kinds of harassing experiences on a daily basis? Not just while driving but I'm sure while doing other everyday things too. As I am not a person of color, I can't really speak to it, but I can do my best to listen and learn.

For people who haven't really  experienced any police drama in their lifetime and want to just get an understanding of it from the perspective of a young black male watch the film it shows you with humor better than I can explain. I've had elderly white people come up to me after seeing the film during a film festival saying when they saw this police issue we deal with through a new set of eyes. It changed how they thought about situations they had previously saw only from the cops side.

From DRIVING WHILE BLACK.

That's fantastic that people have been touched like that and I can certainly see why, having watched the film. What can people who don't have to go through these kinds of experiences do to help those who do and help make the social climate better?

Watch DWB and spread the word.

What do you think can be done on a community level to fight the kind of discrimination the film shows?

I don't know the answer but everyone becoming more aware of what's going on. Meaning ALL people not just people of color. We ALL have to understand the history to be able to create change.

So true. I think steps like having mandatory body cams and citizens' review boards to oversee them may be good first steps too. But certainly everybody has to pitch in on this. Any funny or memorable moments that stick out from the process of filming?

When we were in the editing process for the film, I was coming in to the office to do some voice overs one day. The whole area was surrounded by cops. I guess they were searching for someone.

Oh shit.

I called the office and said "Yoooo the whole area is crawlin' with police how can I get through to the office?"

Someone said I could cut through the alley and it would let out right by the office. I drive in this alley and as soon as I come out the other side more cops are right there…

Damn.

…they pull out guns and ask to search the car. They thought I might be hiding the person they were looking for in the backside. Cops were like "What are you doing over here?"

I said "Yo, I'm actually going to this right here. I'm working on a movie about y'all".

Then I hopped on the phone and called Paul to come outside and vouch for me. One cop was a straight asshole claiming I fit the description on the suspect they were looking for. The other cop was chill apologizing for the hostility.

Wow. Good cop/bad cop quite literally.

When Paul came out they realized I was telling the truth and let me go. When I went inside the office, there was another actor in the film – a black guy – who was like " How come the cops didn't harass me like you? They just let me right in…"

He was offended that they didn't harass him at all. I was like "You a clean cut nigga! I got too much of that hip hop vibe they had to fuck with me&".

Damn. Glad it didn't get much beyond that. Still sucks you were hassled though. What do you hope audiences will ultimately take with them from the film?

I'd like for black people and other people  of color to be happy seeing a story being told focused on something we deal with in society from a fresh perspective that they relate to. There has never been a film like this.

From DRIVING WHILE BLACK.

Absolutely agreed. It was refreshing, brave, and very funny. And I'm a white guy.

I'd like for white people and others who have never had experience any kind of police prejudice to leave understanding the psychology of how the FUCK THE POLICE attitude is born in a black child and how it grows. Through humor we can make people laugh and then think deeply at the same time. The uneasy feeling I get when I see the police never is going to go away but that's just life for a lot of black people... ain't that a bitch?

It sucks. Not to say others (particularly white people) who go through shitty experiences with the cops have similar experiences to people of color here, but I often wonder why more people aren’t instinctively worried when they get pulled over – especially when you see increased enforcement of more BS “non-crimes” like seat-belt laws. But I've also had my share of bad experiences there too like the cop who grew increasingly agitated because of my hands after he pulled me over. I have a hand tremor similar to Parkinson's and I tried explaining that but he didn't care, made me do the field sobriety test because of it in fact. So absolutely those shitty experiences are universal. But, I digress there…

A question I ask everybody: what makes a great film?

A great idea and unique execution of that idea makes a great film. Don't try to be like anyone. Take risks. Trust your instincts and keep them parallel with your vision.

Very well said. And all marks that DWB absolutely hit.

And another question I ask everybody: what films and performances have really stuck with you over the years and influenced you as an artist? A big question as well I know.

Shit, that's a tough one because my influences are all over the place. So let's do off top of my head…

Definitely.

…the Japanese Samurai Saga film Lone Wolf with Child and Ice Cube's Friday.

Cool. Final question, what is next for you?

I've got a lot of fly music shit coming this year! Catch me on the gram under my moniker: @KTOWNODD.