Natalie Morales, an actress best known for her roles in “Parks and Recreation” and “Girls,” makes a living off making people laugh, cry and emote in ways they never knew possible.
She considers going to the movies her version of going to church.
That’s why when James Holmes walked into an Aurora, Colorado movie theater and opened fire on a dozens of patrons who wanted to see “The Dark Knight Rises” in 2012, Morales became more invested in doing whatever she could to raise awareness on gun violence.
“Because of what I do, just as a person, a movie theater is really important to me. It’s kind of like my church, it’s what I’ve given my life to,” Morales tells Rare by phone. “So it felt like someone was trying to take that experience away from me, and it’s happened more than once, it happened during a viewing for “Trainwreck.”
In recent weeks, Morales put her personal concern about gun violence to practice with the release of “Pulaski,” a short film about school lockdown drills set to a reworked version of “Pulaski at Night” by Andrew Bird.
Though she is known for her work in front of the camera, Morales put forth her skills as a director for the subtle film that follows a young African American boy as he goes through a day of school in Chicago.
Sponsored by Michael Bloomberg’s organization Everytown for Gun Safety, “Pulaski” walks the viewer through a lockdown drill that Morales says is common across the United States. In an era where mass shootings are all too commonplace, Morales shows what has become the new normal for many young children.
“I for one had no idea what lockdown drills are really like,” Morales explains. “I think most people, even if you have a kid, you don’t know what it’s actually like. It’s the world that we live in now, that’s a day in the life of a kid in America now.
In order to properly convey the tone of her subject matter, Morales traveled to Chicago, Illinois, a city known across the world for it’s amount of gun violence.
While shooting in Chicago, Morales encountered children that were similar from the backpack wearing child in the video.
“There was a kid wearing a backpack walking down the street, walking home from school right where we were filming,” Morales says.
“Every corner we turned there was someone who could’ve been the kid from our video doing the exact same thing the kid in our video was doing.”
Though they wanted to highlight Chicago, Morales cautions that the issue is by no means focused on Chicago.
Along the journey of making the film, Morales familiarized herself with how different schools prepare students and faculty for a possible shooting, and later learned from the child actors on set about how common the locked down procedures were.
“That’s an insane reality and it’s very real for these kids,” Morales said.
Morales likens the experience to children from previous generations going through regular fire drills. Despite all the fire drills, Morales doesn’t recall a mass string of schools burning down. According to a report from ABC News, there was at least one shooting a week that occurred at a school in the United States in 2015.
Despite the sensitive subject nature, Morales has put together an ad about gun violence that does not come off as anti-gun.
“I didn’t want to make an anti-gun PSA, and neither does Everytown, that’s not what they’re about,” Morales says.
“There are plenty of people who are responsible gun owners and that’s OK.”
Still, Morales wants to see expanded background checks and hopes that lawmakers close loopholes that allow high-powered firearms to be purchased by people on the Internet, at gun shows or by those who are on a terror watch list.
When speaking about gun control, Morales makes an analogy about getting her driver’s license. When she got her license, her mother and stepfather told her that she was driving a killing machine and needed to be careful.
“A gun is literally made for that…so why don’t we have laws that protect us in that way…not to take away guns away from us because a lot of people don’t want that and that’s OK,” Morales says.
“It has reached a peak point,” Morales explains.
“You would think that when something like this reaches our kids that we would care more. I’m trying to make that happen with this video.”