The actor spoke with Variety where he said he was “very scared” about playing the role of Widner, who left the white supremacist movement and went into witness protection after becoming an FBI informant.
Based on writer-director Guy Nattiv’s Oscar-winning short film of the same name, Skin follows Widner as he begins to doubt his loyalty to the white power movement. He falls in love and becomes a step-father to three girls, before deciding to undergo two painful years of removing his facial tattoos.
“There was a lot of fear and trepidation about doing this movie,” Bell said. “I was worried. I think that these are a group of people that are not to be messed with, really. They are organised, they’re armed.
“They’ve shown and they continue to show that they are people who don’t mind being out in the daylight. They don’t care that their faces are out there carrying torches, saying things they they’re saying, carrying the slogans that they’re carrying. So, just from a literal sense of safety, I was afraid.”
After speaking with Widner for the first time, which happened to take place on the same day as the Charlottesville rally attack in 2017, Bell said he spoke with his director and said he was unsure if they should be making the movie.
“I think that it’s too incendiary right now. It’s too explosive,'” Bell remembered telling Nattiv. “We’re in a world where it’s being emboldened. They’re walking in the streets. They’re in broad daylight. They’re showing their faces.'”
Bell put on 20 pounds for the role, and also shaved his head, wore fake teeth and contact lenses, and spent three hours a day in makeup having the fake tattoos applied to his head and body.
Before Trump became president, Bell claimed Nattiv was told the story would be too difficult for audiences to believe. “They were like, ‘That doesn’t exist in America anymore. That’s an old-world kind of thing. We dealt with that,'” he said.
See the full Variety interview here.
Skin is in cinemas and on demand now.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies