John Singleton explains to ABFF audience why ‘Ricky’ had to die in ‘Boyz N the Hood’

Photo credit: Everett Collection /
Photo credit: Everett Collection /

John Singleton talks about his iconic film, ‘Boyz N the Hood’

As part of the American Black Film Festival, which took place from Thursday, June 11 to Sunday, June 14, 2015, in New York City, filmmaker John Singleton hosted a screening of his iconic film Boyz N the Hood alongside Turner Classic Movies. After the film, Singleton spoke for over 30 minutes about various aspects of the film, including casting, his inspiration for writing the script, the Academy Award nominations the film received, and the most heartbreaking part of the film, the death of Ricky, played by a then-unknown Morris Chestnut.

Why did he kill Ricky, and break the hearts of everyone who saw the film? Singleton’s response was simple. “He had to go because he was the Black American dream … for the emotional impact.”

Indeed, as this writer sat in the theater watching the film that debuted in the summer of 1991 that I have seen countless times, I again felt the pain of Ricky getting shot and killed in that California alley, as there have been thousands, perhaps even tens of thousands of Rickys killed from coast-to-coast in the 24 years since the film was released.

Singleton shared a few more gems about the film, which was nominated for two Academy Awards, Best Director and Original Screenplay, including that he felt the film was shortchanged with nominations. When asked if he was happy about the two Oscar nods, Singleton responded, “I was happy for myself, but I was upset because I think it should have got Best Picture and Ice Cube should have got nominated for Best Supporting Actor.”

Singleton then said he told Ice Cube, who played “Doughboy” in the film, “You didn’t cry on the porch … if you had cried on the porch you would have been nominated for an Oscar.” Singleton is referring to the final scene in the film between Cube and Cuba Gooding Jr., who plays Trey Styles.

Some other fun facts from the film? Actresses Nia Long (Brandi), Regina King (Shalika), and Alysia Rogers (Shanice) all attended Westchester High School in Los Angeles. Laurence Fishburne, who played Furious Styles, father of Trey Styles, are only separated by six and a half years in age.

If you are Black and aspire to have a career in Hollywood, the American Black Film Festival is an excellent event to attend. In addition to this Q-and-A session with Singleton, there were others featuring Tracie Ellis Ross and Taraji P. Henson, as well as screenings of feature-length and short films by Black directors featuring Black casts. If you are a fan of Black cinema, it is an excellent festival to view up-and-coming talent. Visit their website at for additional information.

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