Black films allow us to see ourselves as everything and anything. However, some titles, like the newly released “Steps” starring Walter Fauntleroy, cast their ambition beyond reflection, and attempt to help us understand our unique human struggles.
“Steps” is set in Jersey City, New Jersey and tells the story of Brian, played by actor Rob Morgan — a man who has it all but becomes addicted to alcohol after a traumatizing armed robbery by the hand of local hustler, Taj, played by Walter Fauntleroy. Brian’s addiction robs him of his love, his livelihood, his social status, and eventually his home. “Steps” follow’s Brian’s journey to sobriety and Taj’s journey to humility and redemption through a second, unlikely chance meeting.
Throughout his career, Fauntleroy has had the privilege of depicting a wide range of Black stories, but the role of Taj is one that will always be close to his heart.
“He’s a good guy who comes from urban circumstances and that influences a lot of the decisions he makes,” Fauntleroy told WeBuyBlack, speaking about his character Taj. “He sees someone that has everything he wants from the white world. He decides to take what he wants, but this experience makes him come full circle. It’s his downfall and then he rises.”
The film was written and produced by New Jersey native Eddie Harris and executive produced in part by basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal. The cast also includes actress Pauletta Pearson Washington, wife of famed actor Denzel Washington.
Although released this year, “Steps” was shot in 2015, just as Fauntleroy’s acting career was beginning to take off. It was his first time in a leading role, and what began as simply another career opportunity, ended up being a passion project that gave the actor new perspective on his own life experience.
“I could relate to Taj so much because of the things that happened earlier in my life,” he said. “I was that kid, learning on the streets. I know these experiences. I’ve had friends murdered. I’ve been in situations where I had to use my intuition and leave before things got too dangerous. It was really kind of cathartic for me to bring some sort of truth to Taj.”
Ultimately, Fauntleroy says that “Steps” is about forgiveness, redemption, recovery, and the triumph of the human spirit. And while it’s an unmistakably Black story with a Black cast, he says the film’s larger message is a spiritual one that everyone can understand.
“If you’re a human being and you can connect to yourself, connect to your soul … to the power within you, then “Steps” will touch your heart strings and make you feel like, ‘yes I can’.”