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JSU grad student helped set scenes in ‘A Day to Die’ film

A Day to Die
A Day to Die(WLBT)
Published: Mar. 15, 2022 at 3:18 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - While thriller fans flocked to theaters to see A Day to Die stars like Bruce Willis or Kevin Dillon, one Jackson State University grad student is glued to the big screen for an entirely different reason.

Chesha Lewis is smiling from ear to ear, looking at the scenes she helped design or tear down.

“It was an amazing experience!” Lewis said with a big, innocent grin. “Everyone was so cool. Like, Kevin Dillon, he was interacting with us, laughing, talking.”

Lewis, an aspiring filmmaker, will earn her graduate degree from Jackson State University in Mass Communications next month. She’s also a brand ambassador for JSU, which means she often represents the school off-campus.

The opportunity landed in her lap after one of her mentors shot a group text to all brand ambassadors to gauge interest in volunteering on the film.

She immediately replied back and the next few weeks were Hollywood history.

Lewis was placed with the film’s art department, setting up and tearing down scenes for shoots.

“I had the opportunity to work with the art director, Dr. Nadia Smith - she also had an assistant director. We walked into this empty room in a building, and she told me how the scene would look. She said, ‘This will be an office here. We’re going to put two shelves right here, and then we’re going to put another shelf right here... And here’s all the tools right here,” And then she said, “I’ll be right back.”

The Photos From The Movie “A Day To Die”
The Photos From The Movie “A Day To Die”(Chesha Lewis)

As Lewis waited and waited, she began feeling guilty for not working since she knew exactly what the art director envisioned. So, she quickly took the lead and began to design the set - adding the final touches just before the art director returned.

“She was like, ‘Wow!’” she was amazed. “Then, I got excited and gained confidence just looking at her facial expressions.”

If you haven’t seen the movie trailer, ex-military ops officer Conner Connolly (Kevin Dillon) has one day to pay $2 million in reparations to a local gang leader Tyrone Pettis (Leon Robinson) in order to save his kidnapped wife.

JSU grad student helped set scenes in ‘A Day to Die’ film
JSU grad student helped set scenes in ‘A Day to Die’ film(Chesha Lewis)

With her life on the line, Conner must recruit his old crew, led by Brice Mason (Frank Grillo), to pull off a series of dangerous heists to repay the money he owes and settle a score with the city’s corrupt police chief (Bruce Willis).

In a race against time, the crew must rely on their tactical training and brotherhood to save themselves and those who matter most.

Gianni Capaldi, Brooke Butler, Vernon Davis, Mohamed Karim, Alexander Kane, and Curtis Nichouls round out the cast.

And the office scene Lewis worked on appears at the beginning of the movie where Vernon Davis quits his job after receiving a phone call. In the other scene, Lewis helps tear down a trap house that Leon Robinson appears in.

From hanging out with celebrities to learning about gun safety on set and watching how Hollywood brings high-speed chases to life without the vehicle ever really moving, Lewis loved every minute of the experience.

It has motivated the aspiring filmmaker to begin working on her own documentary about the importance of environmental justice in Jackson, her home.

She also aspires to become mayor of Jackson one day and create ways for the media and community to work together to inspire change in the community.

“I recognize these issues in my city, and I want to address them. Two years ago, my own niece was killed, and there’s been no justice for her. This city needs healing - mothers, other family members, need healing. I want to figure out ways to decrease crime, do something about guns and help my city.”

Lewis isn’t sure how filmmaking and politics will merge. She doesn’t have a crime-solving plan nor has she begun writing the script for her film, but after working on this project, she sees anything is possible.

“They could look at one room and picture something else. That was so amazing - and it made me believe that if they can do it, I can too.”

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