Washington Post (US), Aug 19, 2019
A Virginia man wanted to help his charity. Keanu Reeves wanted to promote his movie. Things ‘just fell into place.'
by Hannah Natanson
The movie spoke to each of them in different ways.
“Already Gone” — a new film that tells the story of two teenagers who hit the road to escape a bad situation in New York City — reminded Vernon Green Jr., a Virginia man who runs a charity mentoring at-risk kids, of his own childhood growing up in foster care with an abusive father. For Jim Klock, a former Virginia policeman who made it big as an actor and served as one of the film’s executive producers, it recalled interactions he had as a cop with children in the “project section of the D.C. area.”
And for Keanu Reeves, the other executive producer, it felt like “a story that’s true."
“It’s children, in a hard environment, going out into the world and seeking themselves and escape,” Reeves told The Washington Post. “We can watch this movie, relate to it, hopefully learn from it and be entertained by it.”
The movie stars Tyler Dean Flores as Robinson, a 15-year-old who lives in Coney Island with an abusive stepfather named Martin (Seann William Scott). Unbeknown to Martin, Robinson has developed a crush on Martin’s girlfriend Keesha, a 19-year-old exotic dancer played by Justine Skye. When Martin tries to pimp Keesha out, Robinson steals her away and embarks on a road trip fueled equally by love, desperation and Martin’s drug money, which he steals before he leaves.
After this weekend, the movie may do more than teach and amuse. Because of a whirlwind partnership among Green, Klock, Reeves and Christopher Kenneally, the film’s writer and director, it will help real-life children in the D.C. area navigate, and perhaps escape, difficult home situations.
The four men partnered to put on a special pre-screening of “Already Gone” in New York City on Friday — and dubbed Green’s charity, G3 Community Services, the event’s sponsor. This gave Green a boost in “exposure” just when he was fundraising to expand G3CS to D.C. and Maryland, he said. “G3” stands for “Giving God Glory.”
Green drove up to New York on Friday and spent the evening hobnobbing with potential donors. As of Sunday evening, he had already received about 40 donations.
Reeves — who is busy filming “Bill & Ted Face the Music” in New Orleans — even set aside time to record a YouTube video promoting the charity’s work. G3CS, launched in 2015, runs coaching and mentoring programs targeted toward at-risk youths in 10 Virginia public schools.
Green, an Army veteran and the chief executive of a cybersecurity company, founded the nonprofit organization after observing a lack of respect for teachers in his daughter’s school. What began as a “character development” initiative for young men blossomed to include programming for all kids, he said.
Today, G3CS works with schools to offer instruction on topics including leadership, respect and “STEM subjects” such as coding and drones, topics in which Green has expertise. Though the charity’s main focus is helping children, it also aids military families, helping veterans find jobs and reintegrate into civilian society.
“This takes us from a very small scale to national-scale attention,” Green said. “This type of thing is exactly what we need to bring together the exposure, the awareness, the resources so we can do what we need to do for these children.”
Plus, Green admitted with a laugh, it’s “just cool.” He’s a longtime fan of “The Matrix,” and he loves the John Wick series, too. When Green first told his three daughters — ages 12, 19 and 28 — that Keanu Reeves was promoting his charity, they didn’t believe him.
It didn’t “become real” until the family saw Reeves’s YouTube video, Green said. Then: “There were tears, there were cheers, it was emotional.
Reeves said he was happy to help.
“I love the little children, the kids — you have to help the kids,” Reeves told The Post. “There’s some kind of connection through my upbringing, which was great, by the way, but had its challenges.”
He added that he knows firsthand how important mentorship can be for young children — Reeves still remembers his third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade teachers. Their passion for teaching and humor left a lifelong mark, he said.
Klock said he is amazed everything “just fell into place” for the pre-screening. It was possible because the cop turned actor maintains strong ties to the state where he once chased drug dealers.
After about 10 years as a police officer, Klock left Virginia about 2005 to pursue a career in Hollywood. He found spectacular success, acting alongside stars including Jamie Lee Curtis and Matthew McConaughey. Most recently, he appeared in the Oscar-winning “Green Book.”
Klock has been good friends with Reeves ever since they appeared together in a movie called “The Whole Truth” several years ago. When Reeves approached Klock about serving as the second executive producer for “Already Gone” in 2015, his answer was “an instant yes,” he said.
Klock also stayed in touch with his police roots. Not only does he return to Virginia several times a year to serve as a part-time deputy sheriff, but he keeps in close communication with Stafford County Sheriff David Decatur, his boss and “best friend.”
It was Decatur who introduced Klock to Green in late July during one of Klock’s visits to Virginia — setting the whole plot into motion.
“Vernon’s nonprofit, they do incredible work in our community,” Decatur said. “I was kind of hoping — I mean, you plant a seed, you help people connect, you’re hoping something good is going to come from it.”
“Sometimes, great things happen,” he added.
Klock, impressed by Green’s story and by G3CS, reached out to Reeves and Kenneally to gauge their interest in promoting the charity. Both signed on without hesitation.
About 10 days later, Klock, Kenneally and Green were in New York City together, watching the special pre-screening of “Already Gone” — preceded by Reeves’s “PSA” video for G3CS. (Reeves could not attend because he had to work.)
Kenneally said there’s a perfect resonance between the work G3CS does and the tale he hoped to tell through “Already Gone” — both focus on “children confronting difficult situations.”
“It’s almost magical, in a way,” he said. “You make a movie, and then you wind up doing something that’s helping actual people.”
Decatur, who met Reeves through Klock about a year ago, said he is thrilled but unsurprised the actor agreed to help out. Decatur recalled Reeves as “such a giver, very humble.”
“The truth is, he made all this happen,” Klock said of Reeves. “The movie doesn’t happen without Keanu, the screening doesn’t happen without Keanu.”
In part, Reeves said, his enthusiasm for the movie and the charity stem from a pivotal moment in his own life. The two protagonists in “Already Gone” have to decide who they want to be, he said — and he faced a similar choice when he dropped out of high school to pursue a career in acting.
“Do I want to pursue something that I love, and that I know I want to do? Or do I continue on this traditional school path, university, et cetera,” Reeves said. “And I didn’t.”
He paused, and chuckled. “So I guess that was a pretty important decision."
The Whole Truth
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