One night in Miami Director Regina King has said she has no problem with British actors playing legendary US characters as long as they invest in the role.
During a BAFTA master class in London last night (January 12), King said, “If I am moved by a performance, I really don’t care where a person is from.”
Referring to British actor Kingsley Ben-Adir, who portrays Malcolm X in her directorial debut, and Canadian actor Eli Goree, who portrays a young Muhammad Ali, King stated:
“As a viewer, for me they really understood what they were doing, what they embodied. After Kingsley’s first audition, I wanted to jot him down some notes. I just wanted to talk to him and get to know him and know how his relationship with Malcolm was. He said everything I needed to hear him say and I am sorry we are here. “
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In recent years, British actors David Oyelowo, Cynthia Erivo and Daniel Kaluuya have portrayed civil rights icons Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman and Fred Hampton. Some in Hollywood have wondered if non-American actors should get such roles. Others have noticed that American actors often portray iconic alien characters.
King continued last night, “One of the things that I really understood or discovered during this process One night in MiamiWhen I first received and read this, I thought, “Wow, Kemp, this is just a love letter to the black’s experience in America.” But then step back and take in really marginalized people all over the world. There are feelings and experiences that black people in Britain and Brazil experience just as they do in America. While the story of how a country came into being may be different, the marginalization of a black man is the same, the colorism is the same in all of these places.
“Kingsley was the best actor for the role and Eli was the best actor for the role. Sure, none of them are American. But can they relate to the experience and pain a black person feels just ignored because of the color of your skin? Absolutely they can. Can you take it upon yourself to make sure you read up on how specific it is to America in the history of how black Americans built this country that it was built on the bodies of black Americans? You can definitely read up on this, and they did. I wouldn’t change my decisions for anyone. “
The debate about who can play, who is safely alive and well.
One night in Miami, which debuted at the Venice Film Festival last year and is available on Amazon Prime, shows a real-life meeting between Cassius Clay (Goree), Malcolm X (Ben-Adir), Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Jim in South Brown (Aldis Hodge).
The current civil rights drama was created with the playwright and screenwriter Kemp Powers (soul), whose eponymous play imagined the passionate conversation between the men that night.
We spoke to King shortly after the film made its debut in Venice.