Regina King is all about the performance, not where an actor is from.
Speaking during a BAFTA Masterclass in London on Tuesday, the actress talked about casting British actor Kingsley Ben-Adir as Malcolm X and Canadian Eli Goree as Muhammad Ali in her directorial debut “One Night in Miami”.
“If I was moved by a performance, I really don’t care where a person’s from,” she said, according to Deadline.
King explained, “As an audience member, to me, they truly understood what they were doing, what they were embodying. After Kingsley’s first audition, I wanted to give him some notes. I wanted to just talk to him and get to know him and get to know what his relationship was to Malcolm. He said all the things that I needed to hear him say and I think it’s unfortunate that this is where we are.”
The issue of non-American, and particularly British actors taking on iconic African-American roles, such as David Oyelowo playing Martin Luther King Jr. in “Selma” and Cynthia Erivo playing Harriet Tubman in ‘Harriet”, has been a point of controversy for some.
“One of the things that I’ve truly understood or discovered throughout this process of ‘One Night in Miami’, is that upon first receiving this and reading it, I thought, Wow, [playwright] Kemp, this is just a love letter to the Black man’s experience in America,” King said. “But then taking that step back and really taking in marginalized people across the world. There are feelings and experiences that Black people in the UK, in Brazil feel that are the same as in America. While the history of how a country came to be may be different, the marginalization of a Black man is the same, colourism is the same in all of those places.”
She added, “Kingsley was the best actor for that role and Eli was the best actor for that role. Sure, neither one of them are American. But can they relate to the experience and the pain felt by a Black person for being disregarded just because of the colour of your skin? Absolutely, they can. Can they take it upon themselves to make sure they educate themselves on the ways it’s specific to America in the history of how Black Americans had built this country, it was built on the bodies of Black Americans? They can definitely educate themselves on that and they did. I wouldn’t change my choices for anyone.”