JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — From Jacksonville to Hollywood, RJ Cyler and his family left the first coast so he could pursue his acting career.
The Englewood High School grad has starred in several shows and movies since his move in 2013.
Next month, he stars and is an executive producer on the independent film “Freedom’s Path”.
The movie is about the lives of free African Americans living in the south during the Civil War. It tells the story of a white Union soldier who deserts battle and learns the real meaning of freedom from RJ’s character, Kitch, who is a free Black man.
We caught up with RJ during a news briefing where he credits a program he participated in as a kid in Duval for helping build his character for this movie. The program is the Black Male College Explorers at Edward Waters University.
He says this program helped him and ultimately his character learn how to connect with someone and form a brotherhood so quickly.
“Duval county literally is Kitch’s heartbeat because a lot of the experience of who he is, how it is to be Kitch, how much he can attach to William (the white Union soldier), you know that came from me learning the sense of brotherhood that I learned at Black Male Explorers," Cyler said.
"We wouldn’t know each other from like a can of paint! New boys every single year and sometimes throughout the program there were new kids. It’s like it was our responsibility as the camp boys to show you that this is your second home.”
That program – the Black Male College Explorers at Edward Waters University – appears to still be going on and taking new members.
Cyler said he is proud to be a part of a story that hasn't been told before. In this movie, you will not see anyone enslaved. Every character is free.
The movie will be released on February 3rd, during Black History Month.
It's premiering at 200 AMC theaters nationwide. The city of Jacksonville confirms it will be airing at both AMC Regency 24 and AMC Orange Park 24 theaters!
Scroll down to watch the trailer!