Union Bound is the amazing true story of Sergeant Joseph E. Hoover, a Union soldier during the Civil War. His personal diaries, that survive today, recount his capture in 1864 at the Battle of the Wilderness. Taken to the notorious camp, “Andersonville”, he was later transferred to a camp in Florence, SC. The film follows the escape to freedom via “the underground railroad” of Hoover (portrayed by actor, Sean Stone) and his friend, Tom Ryan, (played by actor, Randy Wayne) with the help of a black slave, (portrayed by actor, Tank Jones).
I recently had the opportunity to preview UNION BOUND which will be released in theaters nationwide, April 22. This is my exclusive interview with star, Tank Jones. Audiences will recognize Jones for his appearances in “Breaking Bad,” “Three Kings,” “CSI: Miami” and “Rules of Engagement”. He also created Choices Educational Empowerment Program to motivate and inspire youth.
LG: I recently watched Union Bound and was so impressed with your character, Jim Young, and his range of emotional responses to the desperate circumstances he found himself in. Can you tell me what drew you to this role and how you developed your character?
Tank Jones: I play the role of Jim Young, who was a real man. Joseph Hoover wrote about him in his diaries. I came to play Jim Young when Harvey Lowry, who directs the film and is a good friend of mine, asked me to read the script. I read the script even though I originally wasn’t supposed to play Jim. They were looking another actor who had a little bit more notoriety than I did to play Jim. But after reading the script and talking with Harvey and sharing my notes with him, he asked me to play the role because he knew, based on the notes I had given him and the fact that he knows my work, I could pull it off. The studio signed off on it and that’s how I got to be a part of the project.
It’s such an interesting story of a white gentleman serving in the Union Army who was taken captive and how black slaves helped him to get free. It’s a true story–which is automatically a great hook to draw anybody to be a part of the project. As an actor, you relish opportunities like this. Jim goes through a myriad of emotions…back to back to back. He is making life and death decisions almost every few minutes. When I was layering the character, I did a ton of research myself, I studied as much as I could on the Civil War, Carolina slave history, and slave trade. I did as much as I could to make him a breathing living person and not just a caricature.
LG: I read a quote where you said that you were hoping that Union Bound would “unite people more than it divides”. What did you mean by that?
Tank Jones: I have said it many times and I will happily and continually say it again and again. I love this country. America is a great land. I love our Constitution. I love the fact that we have a First amendment. I love what social media has done in recent years to help people share more and there’s a lot of good that came out of that. In many ways we are more connected–but in other ways we’re not. People are free to share their thoughts and their ideas. But, now the thing is that we are in a “like/share” culture. People are now looking for different ways to spark controversy just for those “likes” and just for those “shares” which can create such decisiveness… “if you don’t think like I think we’re going to ‘unfriend’ you. That cuts off from the richness of what it means to be a part of community.
And, here we are filming one the darkest eras of our nation’s young history. It happened 150 years ago, but depending on how you look at it, the Civil War only happened 150 years ago. You see examples of people, in a dark time of our history, who choose humanity. They choose to do the right thing despite the consequences. So, when someone sees this film and knows that it’s based on a true story, my hope is that they will be inspired by how people responded to others with humanity in the face of personal danger. My hope is that perhaps the humane part of us can come back to the table and stop shutting off opinions that don’t agree with ours and learn how to have civil discourse.
LG: I understand that you have been spoken with churches to encourage them to screen Union Bound to their congregations. Why do you think it is important for churches to share this film?
Tank Jones: That is a great great question. People look at the movie on the surface as a Civil War history piece–not necessarily connected to the church in any way, shape, or form. Not to be too religious or to divide people, but the thing about this film is that when we talk humanity–isn’t the true heart of Christianity exactly that? When Jesus Christ walked the earth, He said, “Look these are your commandments…Love God, love others, and then love yourself”. This film is not going to hit you over the head by any means with that message but you will see things throughout this movie that you will know that the hand of God had a hand literally and figuratively during the time portrayed in the film and also in the making of this project. There’s salvation in the film–it’s a film about heart.
So, of course, I think that that’s a message that should be out and should definitely resonate with any and every church out there. Again, you said it before, about bringing people together and not dividing. Well, we seem to be at a turning point in our history right now that’s very similar and akin to what was happening 150 years ago. You have these people taking up this cry of, “Take our country back!” and that sounds eerily similar and has so many parallels to one of the dark parts of our history. It seems as if we are not learning. Yes, we disagree but its okay to disagree. Let’s figure out where there is some common ground. Anytime you take a hard-line stance on anything, whatever is in-between, it dies. I hope to God that we don’t see that.
This is something that should begin in the church, that churches learn to unite and even learn to stop dividing God. Then, the changes that would happen in this country would be tremendous and they would start almost immediately–to understand the true message of Christianity–to love God, love others, and then to love yourself. Christ, when He was on this earth, He railed against the Pharisees, those were the people that pointed their fingers telling people do this, don’t do that…He was just pure Love and I am hoping that, again, we can see that.
Hey, not to say that a little independent film can do all that but maybe it can be a little small spark. Maybe it can inspire someone to say, “You know what? Let me look at myself, let me take a little bit of an introspective look at myself to perhaps see where I might can extend my hand a little bit further than I thought possible”. That’s all.
For more information:
Larry Tank Jones can be found on Facebook and Twitter (and he responds!)
Union Bound, the Tour hosted by Tank Jones