In simply trying to tell an "Oakland story" with his new film "Blindspotting," Daveed Diggs covers a whole lot more. The movie, which he spent a decade writing with his best friend and co-star Rafael Casal, addresses gentrification, police violence, the N-word, poverty, racial disparity in the justice system and, at its core, how a changing neighborhood affects the relationship of two young men who have spent their lives there.
"We felt we had never seen the city represented in a way that we know it to be. So we were trying to tell an Oakland story and when you do that, you come up against a lot of other issues," Diggs said on "CBS This Morning" Wednesday.
Diggs portrays Collin, a young Oakland man trying to stay out of trouble during his final three days of probation, opposite Casal as his on-screen best friend, Miles, who has a knack for attracting the kind of trouble Collin desperately needs to avoid. That friction tests the relationship over and over.
"Miles and Collin grew up together. They have almost exactly the same context. One happens to be white, one happens to be black. The changing surroundings around them means that their context is changing and now they're in different kinds of danger because of how the outside world sees them," Diggs explained.
The film opens with a police shooting witnessed by Collin. Anger over the death of Oscar Grant at the hands of an Oakland officer gripped the city in 2009, when Diggs and Casal first started conceiving the story. For Diggs, not much has changed since.
"I think that the fantasy of all the protests around that time was that things would change, but, 10 years later, the biggest update we made in the script was that almost no one is affected by the tragedy except Collin because he happens to be there to witness it," Diggs said.
Through a countdown of Collin's final days on probation and a series of instances that could land him back in jail, Diggs hoped to highlight how he believes the justice system is designed to trap people.
"It's a filmic technique to give a countdown, but it's also real if you know anybody on probation or if you've ever been on probation. That's a trap. There are a series of traps set up to send you back to jail because they make money off of you in jail," Diggs said. "There are traps everywhere for a lot of different kinds of people and one of the biggest traps in the film is poverty. None of these people are wealthy people, none of them necessarily have the means to move or leave their situation, but the city is being ripped out from under them so where are they going to go? As the rents keep rising, as there are fewer and fewer things in the city that they can participate in."
Even the title, "Blindspotting," blends Oakland's past with the troubles of its present. It's a reference to the slang term created by Collin's girlfriend to help her remember the psychological phenomenon of Rubin's vase, a picture that can appear to be two faces or a vase.
"We pride ourselves on creating slang in the Bay Area. It's a very Oakland thing to do and all slang is derivative," he said. "It's either a vase or two faces, depending on how you see it, and all of your life experiences are going to lead you to see one or the other first. It's not that you can't see the other side, it's that you always have to work for it."
"Blindspotting" opens in select theaters Friday, July 20 and nationwide July 27