Jay Reeves as Ray Ray in SAFETY, exclusively on Disney+.

In addition to its relationship to ESPN, Disney+ is zeroing in on the sports entertainment market. Their new movie Safety starts streaming today.

Like most good sports films, this drama is based on a true story. Safety follows the empowering story of a former Clemson University football safety, Ray McElrathbey. Throughout the movie, “Ray-Ray” faces a series of challenging circumstances, but triumphs over his repeated adversities with dedication and persistence.

Jay Reeves stars as Ray-Ray. The actor said he instantly connected to McElrathbey’s story.

“Ever since day one I was overwhelmed with excitement. It was crazy. I remember reading the description of the role in the story and dropping everything in that moment. As soon as I got the audition material I was like, hey guys, I got to go home. And all my friends were wondering why I skated out of there. But this story was just so impactful to me that reading the description made me leave everything and go pursue it. So, I’m so grateful to be a part of this project. It’s amazing,” said Reeves during a press junket attended by THS.

It was an exciting experience for Reeves, who hadn’t actually heard McElrathbey’s story prior to reading about the role. It inspired him to learn more about the football player – before Reeves himself was even officially cast in the role for Safety.

“Going into it I started my research as soon as I got the material. Watching YouTube videos,” Reeves said. “I followed Ray before I even got the role. I followed him on Instagram just to, you know, get a little bit ahead.I just dove in headfirst and got to know this fantastic story.”

There are plenty of emotional moments in Safety, but THS asked about one scene in particular which sees Ray-Ray signing paperwork to remove his brother (played by Thaddeus J. Mixson II) from his mother’s care.

“As I got to know Ray, I would just dig in his brain. And I didn’t want to ask him, like, specific questions like that, because I wanted to feel it for myself. I didn’t want him to give me the easy answer to what that might have felt like,” recalled Reeves. 

Thaddeus J. Mixson as Fahmarr and Jay Reeves as Ray Ray in SAFETY
Thaddeus J. Mixson as Fahmarr and Jay Reeves as Ray Ray in SAFETY

“I remember on the day, I was actually sitting in the corner with Thaddeus. And he’s just being himself and having a great time. And I got this heavy scene to do. But I think that helped me a lot, you know, sitting over there with him and his father and seeing their relationship and then putting myself in this position where I have to sign over for something like that, for that same type of responsibility, just hit my heart. And I just tried to be honest, just tried to be honest in what I would really feel like in that situation.” 

Safety premieres December 11 exclusively on Disney+.