In a frank discussion with fellow filmmaker Gina Prince-Bythewood, the ‘One Night in Miami’ director — who has been thrust into the awards conversation a year after claiming her best supporting actress Oscar — opens up about ambition, success and how best to use her megaphone.
There was no pre-Zoom huddle about wardrobe, yet fellow filmmakers Regina King and Gina Prince-Bythewood both pipe in virtually on an early February afternoon, sporting sweatshirts embossed with phrases appropriate to the conversation they would have.
Prince-Bythewood’s reads: “A credit to my people.”
“We’ve got to remind ourselves,” says Prince-Bythewood, from her home in Los Angeles.
“Exactly,” offers the One Night in Miami director, also in L.A., before borrowing a line from renowned writer James Baldwin: “Our crown has already been bought and paid for, all we have to do is wear it.”
Prince-Bythewood, 51, has ostensibly signed on to interview King, 50, an Oscar- and Emmy-winning actress turned first-time feature director with the Amazon Studios drama, but it very quickly becomes a back-and-forth about everything from the politics of ambition to the challenges of raising Black sons. The two have known each other casually for years — in fact, it was the Old Guard director who recommended King’s One Night in Miami directory of photography, Tami Reiker — but they’ve grown considerably closer during the pandemic. They’re both a part of what is now a standing Saturday Zoom gathering with an enviable group of Black female artists who converse about anything and everything, according to its participants.
Still, the opportunity for something a little more intimate presented itself on this day because, once again, King has been thrust into the awards conversation. After more than three decades in front of the camera, her breakthrough came with back-to-back roles in 2018’s If Beale Street Could Talk and 2019’s Watchmen, which earned King her first Oscar and fourth Emmy, respectively, and the full attention of the industry. She followed up by moving behind the lens, directing an adaptation of Kemp Powers’ stage imagining of conversations among four prominent Black men — Cassius Clay, Jim Brown, Sam Cooke and Malcolm X — for Amazon. Her deft handling of the material scored widespread praise and could, if all goes right, make her the first Black female directing nominee at April’s Academy Awards.
So, fittingly, Prince-Bythewood, whose other directorial credits include Love & Basketball and Beyond the Lights, kicked off the hourlong chat with a discussion of Black excellence. — LACEY ROSE
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