“The Woman King” is already shaping up to be a pivotal moment in Hollywood’s long and problematic history. With an almost entirely Black cast, Gina Prince-Bythewood’s story of the Agojie regiment of Dahomey is unlike any other blockbuster in recent memory. This sentiment goes for its crew, as we at /Film recently learned at the #TakeUpSpace discussion held by Twitter to promote “The Woman King,” which premieres tonight at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Viola Davis, who stars in the film as the fierce but headstrong Agojie leader Nanisca, doesn’t just provide her acting talents to the role. She also produced it underneath her JuVee Productions banner, which she operates alongside her husband. During the TIFF discussion, she described the various challenges that Black female producers such as herself face as they attempt to bring their stories to life.
“If you were a fly on the wall, and you could see every time you’re walking in that room and hustling for your word, you’re fighting for simple stories. You’re fighting for the hair, the makeup, you know what we look like, you know, can you make them prettier? Can we have more lipstick and not dirt? [We’re] fighting for all these actors who are great, but they don’t have the resumes of their white counterparts, so you’ve got to sell them in the room.”
Winning The Fight
While “The Woman King” had its own lengthy road to getting made, the fight for both on-and-off screen voices was won when filming finally began. Black talent was hired in several critical production roles, which star Lashawna Lynch said made the filming process feel so much easier.
“I feel like we can all arrive and feel comfortable and at home and relaxed knowing that we as Black women and Black people are already taken care of and supported and that’s with all departments as well as having a Black head of hair, Black makeup, Black costume designer,” she said. “These are important things.”
As far as on-screen roles go, the vast majority of the cast represented the vastness of the African diaspora, according to John Boyega. He takes on the role of King Ghezo, the real-life ruler of Dahomey in the 19th century. He commented:
“I want people to actually experience the collaboration between Black actors and people, African American and Black British, South Africans, everyone’s coming down to South Africa to make this special. Within our Blackness, we do have cultural differences. This project for me, especially somebody coming in, to see and to train each other, to be there to support each other is something that I feel like we’re going to continue based on just this project alone.”
You can watch the rest of the #TakeUpSpace conversation on Twitter. “The Woman King” will have its world premiere on September 9 before arriving in theaters on September 16.
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The post Why Black Representation Onscreen and Off is So Important, According to The Woman King Stars appeared first on /Film.