“The First Purge” cast & director discuss resisting “stereotype,” embracing “humanity”

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Universal(NEW YORK) -- Director Gerard McMurray wanted to "push boundaries" in his new "edgy" and "thought provoking" thriller, The First Purge. The film, the fourth installment in The Purge franchise, serves as a prequel and highlights the events leading up to the very first Purge: a 12-hour period in which all crime in America is legal.

McMurray, who says he was given, "creative freedom to make the film [he] wanted," tells ABC Radio when it came time to enact his vision, he focused on staying away from common stereotypes.

"We were going to make nuanced, more real, more honest, give them humanity," he says of the film's characters. "It was my ultimate goal. To try to really make it real and grounded in reality, but also have fun."

Y'lan [ee-LAN] Noel, who plays William, a local drug dealer, understood McMurray's vision, saying as an actor, his goal was to search for William's humanity.

"We deal with things in the community where we don't want to play certain roles," Noel says. "But I'm like, 'OK, well, what are the circumstances beyond why he's this type of person?' And on top of that, I just try to bring as much humanity as possible. I'm from New York so I had a natural desire to sort of be somebody who represented that community well."

His costar Lex Scott Davis, who plays Nya, a local community activist, believes the film also shows an eerie connection to what marginalized people feel in America today.

"I think what makes it a thriller is bringing in things that are scary for us as black people in our reality," she says. "I think that's why it resonates so well."

The First Purge arrives July 4th.

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