Foster Boy is a movie written and inspired by real events in the City of Chicago, IL, and Cook County. The story was created by lawyer and screenwriter Jay Paul Deratany, directed by Youssef Delara, and executive produced by Shaquille O’Neal. The movie opens as a teenage boy named Jamal Randolphm raps about his devastating early childhood foster care memories from his open journals. He does this while serving time in jail. Simultaneously, we follow a meticulous successful corporate lawyer, Michael Trainer, who works as a corporate litigator. Judge George Taylor, who presides over Jamal’s case, assigns that same lawyer (Michael Trainer) to Jamal’s open civil suit against BellCore Family Services (for-profit foster care placement organization). Both Jamal and Trainer refuse the merge at first, then accept reluctantly, citing a difference in opinion and perspective. Eventually, Jamal and Trainer come to terms with the real issues, put down their prejudices, and stop squabbling.
In addition to earlier abuses, Jamal and his foster parents, The Randolphs, claim that BellChore knew of the rape and assault charges by another foster child, Joey Poule. This same child continued to be placed with Jamal and other children even though he was disturbed and violent. We follow Jamal and his lawyer, Michael Trainer, on a journey to uncover the truth about the Foster Care system, corruption and deceit, and the relentless company BellCore and other organizations that will stop at nothing to cover-up the truth and obtain money at the hands of innocent black and brown children.
Some of the star-studded cast includes:
Shane Paul McGhie as Jamal Randolph
Matthew Modine as Michael Trainer
Michael Hyatt as Shaina Randolph
Michael Beach as Bill Randolph
Lex Scott Davis as Keisha James
Anand Desai-Barochia as Sanjay
Julie Benz as Pamela Dupree
Louis Gossett Jr. as Judge George Taylor
Evan Handler as Samuel Collins
Dominic Burgess as Dan Cohen
Amy Brenneman as Kim Trainer
Jordan Belfi as Jeff
Louis Gossett, Jr. Interview
How did you come to obtain the role of Judge George Taylor in Foster Boy, and what was your experience working on the movie?
LG: This role was supposed to go to James Earl Jones, but it didn’t happen. I was the next choice, but it turned out well. The cast was great! Shane Paul McGhie (who plays Jamal Randolph) is a talented young promising actor and well-trained from the University of Southern California. He has a great instrument of acting.
I represent the audience (as a judge). The abuse is very revealing. This a good revelation for us all and a major depiction into the Foster Care System and society. We have had to change. We are taking advantage of innocent children. We have to change the morals and ethics of our society and clean up our act. I had no experience of knowing what a judge does. I was able to see things for the first time. The young man in real life won that trial against an organization in the Foster Care System. It just goes to show you that good things CAN happen. We need one another to save one another. Children are people too.
What does Judge Taylor’s role in the movie say about our society?
I think Judge George Taylor’s character is sensitive to Jamal’s plight. He challenges this young lawyer and puts him to the task, showing that he has a duty to uphold. You can’t just take the money and run. George Taylor is open enough to grow. He doesn’t have any pre-dispositions. He learns how to grow and adapt to the circumstances.
What needs to change?
There needs to be a comprehensive sweep in the way we do things and in systematic institutions. The answer is obvious; change the mindset, and you change the results. Let’s do more, and we have to be better. No more loopholes. No hidden agendas. People think they can take advantage, and that’s self- destructive. They are hurting themselves and other people. The work of mankind is to save mankind. We need each other desperately. This mutual salvation will be the resurrection of a better society.
Jay Paul Deratany Interview
How did you come to write this story about “Foster Boy”?
JPD: I’ve been a lawyer for thirty years. I had a referral for a boy that was raped about 20 years ago. It was devastating. This was by the hands of a private company. The situation had a record to show, and I dug more in. The company made millions off of placing children in Foster Care. I’ve had about 30 to 40 cases overall. I had always been a writer, though. My professor told me to write about what you know. I got my MFA from the University of California Riverside. The story I was most passionate about was about the treatment of black and brown people. 85% percent of the cases in the system are Black, Hispanic, and other minorities. It’s unfortunate what is happening.
Shane Paul McGhie speaks to Michael Trainer, and eventually, he sees his plight and others in the system. The young man teaches the lawyer a lesson on how to prevail. Judge George Taylor appoints Trainer to take Jamal’s case. Neither one wants the other. This whole system is like apartheid. The educational system is based on poverty and numbers. Someone living on the South Side of Chicago should have the same privileges as someone living in Winnetka’s suburbs. . We need to make sure that we invest in our children, if not our country is failing.
What changes need to be made, if possible, in the welfare/Foster Care system?
JPD: Hiring social workers and case managers that are trained. Each child should get a lawyer advocate assigned. Don’t give private institutions sole power on how to manage the foster care system. We are in a social revolution, and we need to be cognizant that white silence=violence! We have to look at racial profiling and police brutality. Remove ALL of the racism from the system. This is the first step in making a difference and a change.
Robert J. Ulrich did a great part with the casting. Sean Paul McGhie was a great actor. He sat down with the families and researched, also embodying Jamal’s emotion, struggle, and pain. I decided to write this film when I saw a beautiful black girl killed by someone in a foster family. That is when I decided to change. I met with my professor, and he told me to write about what you know. Peter Samuelson.
Shaquille O’Neal is very generous, and he wanted me to tell the story. We are in negotiations with TNT for a series about the Foster Care system. He was moved when I told him that 40% of foster children that age out of the system will be dead, homeless, or in jail within three years. Everyone loved the script and were very passionate about the movie.
For more information on this movie, go to https://www.fosterboy.com/.
Contributing Writer, Okema Gunn is a filmmaker and educator. Find her on social media @7gunnmedia.