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Brian Tyree Henry makes vital connections in ‘Causeway’

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“Causeway,” a laconic, low-key character study of two literally damaged people, lands in this year’s awards race via potent performances from its two stars, Jennifer Lawrence and Brian Tyree Henry.

For Henry, it couldn’t be more different from his currently filming Godzilla and King Kong sequel on Australia’s Gold Coast. He spoke with the Herald last week from Down Under.

“I just found,” Henry, 40, began, “as my career started to grow in its own way, my life was changing at the same time. As I tried to find characters, I was at the point in my life where I was seeking a sense of play. That’s when Godzilla came.

“They [the producers] gave me a space to make the character my own — and that’s something that I really look into with projects that I take: The collaborative efforts to find or build the character.”

“Causeway” is virtually all about its two characters.  “There was no ‘sizzle’ about our story. It was just a story about a person trying to find their way,” Henry acknowledged. “It didn’t have any heroes or these very crazy plot points. There wasn’t going to be a major revelation that comes at the end. It was just human.

“Just a story about people living in a space and trying to find their way.”

Jennifer Lawrence is Lynsey, a soldier who has returned home to New Orleans after nearly dying in Afghanistan. Henry’s character James lost his leg – and much more – as the driver in a car crash.  He takes care of cars, she wants only to return to duty.

“You meet this man in his place of business where he works at this mechanic shop. A customer comes in and has to travel. And from there, it becomes the story that unfolds about friendship. A friendship connected through grief.

“What I like the most is it’s just a simple story about connection. I felt I needed that and wanted that.  I wanted to just see what the bare bones of making a connection was.”

So after COVID delays, “When we came back to New Orleans and these characters, we realized that there was so much more depth there. We had to dive deeper into who we were as people and what we wanted from a connection. And what that really meant, what friendships and family meant to us.

“It became this whole story that just was about people looking for one another.  Looking for something common. Looking for what makes us the same rather than what makes us different.

“Because we live in a society that is always trying to focus on the differences.”

“Causeway” streams on AppleTV+ Nov. 4

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