WATCH: Matthew McConaughey Explains Why His New Civil War Movie 'Free State of Jones' Has 'Vital Relevance' Today

"There are definitely issues that are center stage here today," Matthew McConaughey tells PEOPLE and Entertainment Weekly editorial director Jess Cagle of the film

Photo: Sam Jones

Matthew McConaughey opens up about falling in love, raising three kids and his provocative new film Free State of Jones. Subscribe now for an inside look into his journey from Texas to Hollywood, only in PEOPLE.

Matthew McConaughey‘s new film takes place over 150 years ago, but its themes of freedom and racial equality seem more relevant than ever.

Free State of Jones tells the true story of Newton Knight (played by McConaughey), a poor Southern farmer who deserts the Confederate Army to lead his own rebellion.

“I couldn’t help but feel a certain very vital relevance. There are definitely issues that are center stage here today,” McConaughey said during a sit-down with PEOPLE and Entertainment Weekly‘s editorial director as part of the exclusive video series The Jess Cagle Interview.

And with the upcoming presidential elections, McConaughey notes that the movie feels especially pertinent. “One of the underlying things is that freedom’s been something that people have fought for since long before the Civil War,” he says. I’m pretty damn sure that it’s going to be something they’re going to be fighting for long after next year.

VIDEO: Matthew McConaughey on Free State of Jones, Career Reinventions and Building a Family

For much more from Matthew McConaughey – and to celebrate all 100 reasons to love America – pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday. Plus, watch more Jess Cagle Interviews at

“Yes, we’re evolving,” he adds, “but I think it will be continuous work that we’ve got to do.”

Free State of Jones hits theaters Friday.

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