‘They Cloned Tyrone’ puts new sci-fi twist on the Tuskegee Experiments. Its director was raised in the town they were conducted.

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THEY CLONED TYRONE, from left: Teyonah Parris, Jamie Foxx, John Boyega, 2023. ph: Parrish Lewis / © Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

Teyonah Parris, Jamie Foxx and John Boyega in They Cloned Tyrone. (Photo: Parrish Lewis / © Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection)

Warning: Minor They Cloned Tyrone spoilers ahead.

There’s something funky going down beneath the streets, and a drug dealer (John Boyega), pimp (Jamie Foxx) and prostitute (Teyonah Parris) are about to get to the bottom of it in They Cloned Tyrone, a Blaxploitation tribute meets sci-fi-mystery-comedy from first-time director Juel Taylor, who penned the script with Tony Rettenmaier.

It’s not spoiling anything not already in Netflix’s trailer to tease that what they find will certainly conjure thoughts of the Tuskegee Experiment, an infamous series of studies conducted in Tuskegee, Ala. between 1932 and 1972 in which more than 400 African American men with syphilis were misled into being test subjects, and over 100 died as a result.

The direct link between Tyrone and Tuskegee: Taylor, the filmmaker who grew up in the tiny Alabama town.

“It wasn’t the impetus,” admits Taylor, who also co-wrote Creed II and Space Jam: A New Legacy. “That wasn’t the beginning of it, but it was definitely in the zeitgeist of what we were drawing from when we were developing the story. It’s kind of hard not to go back to those experiments, being from Tuskegee.

“But I think where it really came from was more like thematically this question of, is there a difference between blame and responsibility? And thinking about people that we grew up with, and some of the different trajectories that a few of my close friends’ lives kind of went down where things were outside of their control, and thinking about how privilege plays into that. That plus I wanted to just make this bootleg Scooby-Doo movie [laughs]… The conspiracy came later in this kind of the congealing of this gas cloud of ideas. As it became more of a planet, that’s when the conspiracies really started to infiltrate. And then of course the Tuskegee Experiment was forefront of the mind at that point.”

Star Wars alum Boyega says Tyrone was unlike anything else he’d read since wrapping that multi-billion dollar trilogy.

“It’s about the notion of freedom,” he explains. “Like what is freedom when you’ve just been given these limited options? It was a breath of fresh air to me. Cause I’d just been reading a lot of [scripts where the hero] crashes through the window and saves the day. And I wanted to find something more nuanced, something that had something to say, but wasn’t taking itself too seriously to not be entertaining. And I found that in this script for sure.”

Parris (Captain Marvel, Candyman) loved that the script intentionally toiled with three classic archetypes from Blaxploitation movies: the pimp, prostitute and drug dealer.

“We are definitely starting with stereotypes,” she says. “We take them, we lean into it. We have to in order for the payoff to work. But what I loved is that we take the stereotypes and then we unravel them and you really get to see who these people are. What they’re wired with, what they’re made of, their ambitions, their desires, their flaws, and we get to bring truth and voice to their stories.”

They Cloned Tyrone is now streaming on Netflix.

Watch the trailer:

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