Emilio Estevez’s new drama, THE PUBLIC, tackles some of our nation's most challenging issues, from homelessness to mental illness to addiction. An unusually bitter Arctic blast has made its way to downtown Cincinnati, and emergency shelters are at full capacity. Seeking refuge, a group of homeless men have staged an “Occupy” sit-in, in a public library. But what begins as an act of civil disobedience becomes a standoff with police and a media frenzy. Caught in the middle are two librarians, who have to decide whether to break the law and let people stay — or let them freeze to death.
Estevez was inspired by a 2007 Los Angeles Times column about how libraries have become de facto homeless shelters and librarians have become de facto social workers and first responders. In a red carpet interview at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, he said, “We’re all connected, and that’s really what this film focuses on: our human connection, our humanity.”
Estevez wrote, directed and stars in the film alongside an incredible ensemble cast. Find out who else you’ll see on the big screen in THE PUBLIC, in theatres now.
Estevez stars as Stuart Goodson, a soft-spoken librarian at the Cincinnati Public Library who credits books for saving his life. Stuart has faced his own demons and hardships; in a way, he identifies with his homeless patrons — or at the very least, understands and sympathizes with them — which is why he doesn’t force them to leave. In fact, he becomes their voice when dealing with the crisis negotiator (Alec Baldwin).
Malone also plays a librarian named Myra, but she’s not as passive as Stuart about being caught in the middle of a sit-in turned standoff. You may recognize Malone from THE HUNGER GAMES franchise or from recent indie dramas NOCTURNAL ANIMALS and THE NEON DEMON.
Michael Kenneth Williams
Best known for his role as Omar Little in “The Wire,” Williams plays one of the library’s homeless patrons, Jackson, who leads the sit-in. In an interview with the Today Show, co-star Alec Baldwin praised Williams’ performance, calling him “one of the greatest actors working in the movie business today.” He’s a standout in THE PUBLIC, delivering great emotional depth.
When the act of civil disobedience by Jackson and his ragtag compatriots quickly escalates into a standoff with local riot police, crisis negotiator Bill Ramstead (Baldwin) is called in. Bill is a no-nonsense detective, who earnestly reminds Stuart he’s risking his career, and his life, by not ending the sit-in. Meanwhile, Bill is dealing with his own crisis: His son, who is addicted to drugs, is missing, adding another layer to this complex story.
City prosecutor and mayoral candidate Josh Davis (Slater) is also called in and immediately spins the situation for his own political gain. He’s calculated and coldhearted, but Slater plays the villain well.
Josh isn’t the only “bad guy” in THE PUBLIC. Union plays Rebecca Parks, a local TV reporter who also exploits the situation to her advantage. She’s all too eager to tell Stuart’s love interest (Taylor Schilling), who shows up on the scene, “These things rarely end well.”
Schilling rounds out the cast as Angela, Stuart’s apartment building manager and love interest. Her role is a supporting one, but she does manage to lighten up the drama a bit, joking that she “probably” shouldn’t sign up for her library card during the chaos.