'Concrete Cowboy' shines spotlight on North Philadelphia's urban riding history

North Philadelphia's urban riding club is getting the Hollywood treatment. They're the focus of a new movie being released on Friday.

Video Transcript

- North Philadelphia's urban riding club is getting the Hollywood treatment. They are the focus of a new movie being released tomorrow.

- This is very cool. It's all about the sense of community and important life lessons learned at the stables and on the streets. Actually, this is Alicia Vitarelli back now live in studio with a sneak peek of this feature film.

ALICA VITARELLI: Oh, yes, and "Concrete Cowboy" filmed right here in north Philadelphia on Fletcher Street, shining those big Hollywood spotlights on its century long tradition of Black urban cowboys. I had a chance to chat with the cast, the local director, and the real life riders about this cinematic love letter to a city treasure they are fighting to save.

- The history is deep. We're like the Wild West out here.

ALICA VITARELLI: Here in north Philadelphia, the real urban cowboys are still riding on Fletcher Street. Some people don't even know that this is here, that it exists.

CALEB MCLAUGHLIN: And a lot-- even the Philly natives, a lot of people--


CALEB MCLAUGHLIN: So, I mean, it was a privilege to understand.

- There's a horse in your house.

ALICA VITARELLI: Caleb McLaughlin is Cole, a troubled teen sent to live with his father played by Idris Elba.

CALEB MCLAUGHLIN: It's a part of American history. It's a story that people haven't told about, and I want people to understand the community, the relationship between son and father, man and horse.

- It could be said all cowboys are Black, even the Lone Ranger was Black.

- Who's the Lone Ranger?

- Really?

- Harp, you teaching this boy anything?

ALICA VITARELLI: The stars soaked in all of the living history filming here on Fletcher Street.

IDRIS ELBA: There wasn't a day that we didn't learn something new and then try and put that into the film so it felt as authentic as possible.

ALICA VITARELLI: Director Ricky Staub is from Philadelphia.

RICKY STAUB: Obviously, it's visually magnificent to see a horse riding through a hood in North Philly. So as a filmmaker, that was a-- that was a draw as well.

CALEB MCLAUGHLIN: Did we drive by your house during filming?

RICKY STAUB: Oh, for sure.

ALICA VITARELLI: Erin Brown started writing on Fletcher Street when she was six. She's known as the concrete cowgirl.

ERIN BROWN: If it weren't for horses, I honestly don't know where I would be, and I never thought it would be my career, but here I am.

ALICA VITARELLI: She's now the executive director of the Philadelphia Urban Riding Academy, fighting to keep this tradition thriving and free for local youth. Staub and his film team are spearheading that fundraising.

RICKY STAUB: Understand this culture, that it's beautiful, and it's special, and it's something that we should revere and preserve.

- So what we going to do now?

- We going to do what we always do. We gonna ride.

ALICA VITARELLI: "Concrete Cowboy" debuts on Netflix tomorrow. Coming up on Action News at 5:00, Erin Brown, our concrete cowgirl, explains the effort to save this riding program. She also talks about her time on the set working with the cast and the crew to make sure it was authentic. Got to be that North Philly vibe.

- I'm excited, man. That just is awesome.


- Beautiful animals and a beautiful story, so--

ALICA VITARELLI: And we welcomed Idris to our beautiful community.

- Oh of course we do.

- There's a lot of smiling going on.

- There's a lot of smiling. It's Idris Elba. What are you going to do?

- Still ahead here in the next half hour--