“I knew of John from then,” says Logan, 63. “So when we finally met in 2019 . . . we got on like we’d known each other for years. I feel like a kindred spirit with John.”
Now U.S. audiences can see Boyega portray Logan in “Red, White and Blue,” released Dec. 4, the third of five installments in the Amazon and BBC co-production “Small Axe.” Each film in the anthology — directed by “12 Years a Slave” filmmaker Steve McQueen and available on Amazon Prime — tells a different story from London’s West Indian community. Set in the 1980s, “Red, White and Blue” recounts Logan’s decision to pivot from his career in forensic science and become a beat cop, following an incident in which two officers brutally beat his father.
“Red, White and Blue” covers the early days of what became a 30-year career at the Metropolitan Police Service. Logan investigates his career in greater depth in a new memoir, “Closing Ranks: My Life as a Cop.” In those pages, Logan recalls his battles against discrimination, workplace politics and sluggish bureaucracy, and he reflects on how his Christian faith and family guided him through it all.
Logan recently discussed “Small Axe,” “Closing Ranks” and his life story’s resonance at a time of heightened tensions between police and Black communities.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: Watching "Red, White and Blue" and reading "Closing Ranks," I was struck by how closely the film seemed to follow the events from your life. How faithful was the adaptation in your mind?
A: I would say 95 percent is spot on. [Co-screenwriter Courttia Newland] was touching base with me a lot as he was developing the script, so I knew the actual narrative was accurate because he was always saying: “Is this right? Is this exactly what happened?” In fact, they were so concerned to be accurate that they asked, “Where did you get your clothes from?” I said a tailor called Charlie Allen — he’s my school friend and his dad had been a tailor before he passed away, so he’s taken on the family business. Then they went to Charlie to dress John Boyega. So I knew all of these things were exactly right.
Q: What were the conversations like when McQueen first expressed an interest in adapting your story for the screen.
A: I had a meeting with Steve, and that felt like an interview for a job. Then Steve wasn’t quite happy about something. He said, “All right, Leroy, let’s go have lunch.” So we had lunch with Courttia, and Steve was saying, “I still don’t know: Why would you leave the world of science against your dad’s requirements? Your dad gets beaten up, and you say you loved your dad, and you still wanted to join? What sort of person are you?” He was getting really animated! When I said it was because of my faith, he said, “Well, why didn’t you tell me in the first place?” He’s very laserlike. He really looks into your eyes, right into your soul, and if he feels that something does not add up, he’s going to keep pushing until he finds out.
Q: What stuck out to you about Boyega's portrayal?
A: Those silent moments when he looked at himself in uniform, that really had a massive impact on me, because I didn’t realize those moments were still in the back of my mind.
Q: The book spans from your childhood in London and Jamaica to your retirement in 2013. How did it feel to revisit and process all of those memories?
A: It was a very cathartic process, just being able to bring to the surface some of the things that you had hidden away in the back of your mind or in the darkest elements of your heart. It gives you a chance to know more about yourself, and also look at the sequence of events and think, “Wow, I had to go through all of those things to get to this position in my life.” I think the message for everyone is even though some people run away from the storm, sometimes you have to step into the eye of the storm. When everything’s spinning around you, sometimes the eye is actually where you get your peace, where you can get a real solitude and a clarity of thinking.
Q: In "Closing Ranks," you recall the 2011 Tottenham riots following the police killing of Mark Duggan and write, "If you don't deal with things like these, they will come back to haunt you." What emotions have come to mind as you've seen history repeat itself this year?
A: The police service over here, and in the U.S., is not just suffering from institutional racism — it’s also suffering from institutional amnesia. It just doesn’t seem to learn from its experiences, and it never fails to amaze me how my senior colleagues, in particular, are in a case of denial, like they can arrest their way out of the problem. They don’t realize that policing is about relationships and about building bridges, not barriers. If you’ve got an investigation to carry out, whatever it may be — a murder, kidnapping, whatever — you have to rely on the community to be your eyes and ears. So who’s going to do that if you treat them like rubbish?
Q: What do you hope viewers of "Small Axe" and readers of "Closing Ranks" take away from your story?
A: That we all have to come together and deal with these struggles. That’s really been coming out, with the issues with your POTUS 45. It just shows that we can’t be complacent. We’ve got to keep focused and really understand that changes are constant, and we need to work, because I don’t want my grandchildren’s generation to go through the same injustices as my children’s generation, my generation, my parent’s generation.
Thomas Floyd is a multiplatform editor who writes about arts and entertainment for The Washington Post.
My Life as a Cop
By Leroy Logan, as told to George Luke
SPCK. 256 pp. $22