I cried about three times watching The Ride, a new film starring Chris “Ludacris” Bridges and Sasha Alexander, so I was relieved when Alexander told me this week that she “cried like six times” just reading the script. Phew. The movie is based on the true story of now-famous BMX athlete John Buultjens, a former white supremacist kid who was taken in by a Black foster dad, played by Ludacris.
Alexander plays John’s foster mother — a role she takes on with power, subtlety and authenticity. After all, Alexander is also a real-life mom to 9-year-old Leonardo and 14-year-old Lucia, whom she shares with husband Edoardo Ponti (yep, son of one Sophia Loren). And educating our kids about the very real white supremacy problem in the United States — and how it’s all of our responsibility to fight for equality and justice — is a crucial, albeit terrifying part of any parent’s job in 2020. I asked Alexander about how she tackles this tough topic with her own kids, plus more about the story behind the film and her own journey, both as an actor and as a parent. And I promise I only mentioned her breakout role (Dawson’s Creek, did you forget!?) once. Sorry not sorry.
The Ride is now available to stream on Amazon Prime.
SheKnows: In The Ride you play the parent of a teenager, but in real life you’re in both teen and tween territory; how is that going during this weird year?
Sasha Alexander: I’ve got a fourth grader and a ninth grader. The fourth grader is struggling; it’s a lot of Zoom fatigue. He’s struggling with not having the interaction, and also it’s hard to sort of received the normal human signals you’d receive from teachers and classmates when it’s over the computer. My daughter, in ninth grade, is more self-sufficient, older, she kind of likes being able to make her own schedule. So she’s dealing with this better.
SK: Do you feel the film prepared you, or scared you, when it comes to parenting an older teen like the character of John Buultjens?
SA: This film was the first time I played a parent in a movie. So that was interesting. When I first read it, I cried like six times. I just believe we all are born into the world wanting love, and the way we learn love is from the people who teach us about love. And if you are a child like John was, coming from an abusive household — because this is based on a true story — if you are a child of that, that’s all you know. The fact that the film shows teaching this teenager how to have hope and believe in good and in people, and believe that he too is worthy of that kind of love… That is really emotional for me as a parent.
SK: And John comes from a white supremacist background prior to his foster placement. How do you talk to your own kids about the reality of racism in this country right now?
SA: It’s very challenging because you know, when my son, who is nine, asks me why people would not want Black people to be treated the same, or why would they want to hold Black people back, or why does color matter… He’s not raised to judge a person on the color of their skin. That is a learned behavior. We’ve had to explain to him that there are people who feel differently than us — people who are scared of anything that is unknown to them or different to them, whether that’s culture or religion or skin color. It’s about asking, where did that come from? What are the roots of that? And there’s no better time in the world to talk about it.
We’re watching a kid raised as a white supremacist be unable to accept the love of a Black man who is trying to give him a better life.
I’m watching my 14-year-old daughter, I mean look out election in four years, because I think this generation of kids is on another level in terms of activism. I mean, I do not remember being 14 and thinking the election was the end-all-be-all! These kids are on group chats talking politics. That’s why this film was important for me to make but also for people to see and particularly young people; it’s PG-13, so it’s safe enough without diving too deep into the violence. But it hits enough that the message is very clear. And the fact that we’re watching a kid raised as a white supremacist be unable to accept the love of a Black man who is trying to give him a better life! That’s insane. But it’s so believable to me. And my kids are going to watch the movie for sure.
SK: As they should. The real question is will you let them listen to Ludacris’ music though!
SA: Haha — listen, Cardi B is everywhere, and her stuff is a lot more inappro-pro! So Chris’s stuff is not so bad. He was so great to work with; he’s such a gentleman.
SK: Do your kids have a funny cute grandma nickname, or do they just have to call her Sophia Loren, full stop?
SA: Haha that would be amazing, yes one word: SophiaLoren. No, they call her Nonna.
SK: I have to admit, you will always be Gretchen Witter to me. Would you ever do a Dawson’s Creek reboot? I interviewed Busy Phillips and asked her the same thing, and she said no way.
SA: I don’t see why not! It would totally be fun. I love all the people that were on that show, and I think that show was such a wonderful thing. I miss it. It was nice to see something for teens that wasn’t about money, you know? It was so real and grounded and thoughtful, and more of a thinking teenager’s show. Especially if you compare it to 90210 which was all about rich kids. Dawson’s was just about real kids having real-life problems.
SK: What’s the main message you hope viewers, parents and kids alike, take away from The Ride?
SA: That we are not our circumstances. We didn’t choose our circumstances; we were born into them, and we all deserve a second chance. How can we help our children have that? If we take care of our children, they will grow up to be happy and build a happier world.
Read about more celebrity parents who get real with their kids about racism.