NEW YORK (AP) – As the scent of wildfire smoke entered her Los Angeles home, Regina King was preparing for the premiere of her feature film directorial debut at the Toronto International Film Festival.
The Oscar-winning actor, who sat in the director’s chair for “One Night in Miami,” wished she could pose with her cast and give them hugs. But with the pandemic travel plans, she settled for a virtual appearance that she equated with a particular television family.
“We’re going to try to make the best we can with our little ‘Brady Bunch’ boxes and hope that the people watching will be inspired and excited to see one of the screenings,” said King.
Based on Kemp Powers’ play, the film tells a fictional account of four prominent black Americans who gathered in a hotel room in 1964 after a 22-year-old Cassius Clay stunned the boxing world with a win over heavyweight champion Sonny Liston.
Clay, who would later change his name to Muhammad Ali, joins Malcolm X, Jim Brown and Sam Cooke to discuss racial inequalities and ways to use their celebrity to end segregation in the South. The next morning they emerge, determined to make the world a better place.
King, who took home a supporting actor Oscar for “If Beale Street Can Talk” last year, will receive early Hollywood awards for the film. She has directed numerous TV episodes over the years.
King said that in the course of making the film in recent years, she “took this opportunity to use our art in a powerful way.” But she had no idea what would happen this year, including the renewed call for racial justice following the death of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.
“I would say we probably thought there was going to be another police murder, but we didn’t know there was going to be an uprising,” she said.
But King is cautious about making a political statement through art.
“I feel like when you go into something and you want people to leave with a call to action, a call to action, or a message – that’s always better received when you’re doing (it) through an entertaining package,” she said .
King says the main problem was choosing what she calls her “quadrumvirate” of actors to play Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.), Brown (Aldis Hodge) and Clay (Eli Goree) .
‘I would talk to them individually because I needed to hear that we had similar, if not the same, expectations, and all four of these men mirrored that – those expectations. And those expectations had to be very clear that we weren’t going to go in here and do impersonation or do something like we had seen before, ”said King.
She added, “I’m only five-three, but I’ll be up against anyone who has anything else to say. I stand behind these artists and the truth these brothers expressed through Kemp’s words. “
“One Night in Miami” was recently acquired by Amazon Studios and is expected to be released by the end of the year.