Jay Reeves was given the opportunity of a lifetime when he took on the real-life role of Ray “Ray-Ray” McElrathbey in the Disney+ biographical sports drama Safety.
Based on McElrathbey’s life, the film follows him as a college freshman at Clemson University and his struggle to raise his 11-year-old brother after his mother goes into drug rehab. Reeves tells ABC Audio that “telling [the] true story” of Elrathbey was a privilege and one that he wanted to get right.
“You want to honor it and give it justice,” he says. “My situation was a little bit different because Ray was next to me to make sure I did that. So having that pressure and having that responsibility to tell this story, but tell it correctly was really fun to me. So it’s good pressure.”
While Reeves admits having the film’s subject on set made him “kind of nervous,” the actor says he welcomed the experience because Ray “allowed” him to do his job.
“I didn’t want him to step in too much. I wanted to do the work myself,” he says. “And he gave me that liberty.”
As far as McElrathbey, who also makes an appearance in the film, he believes his story ultimately had a happy ending simply because of his refusal to fail in life.
“I fear failing. Like, to not make it,” he reveals. “I think a lot of people had a place in their life where it’s just kind of figuring life out.”
“But, to persevere through all of that,” he explains. “And to continue to know that if you remain a good person and if you continue to help to be of service… you’ll be valued at all times of your life.”
Safety, also starring Corinne Foxx, premieres Friday on Disney+.