Regina King never expected to be in a Western – in fact, the Oscar winner didn’t even like the genre before taking the pitch from first-time feature filmmaker Jeymes Samuel.

“I sat down and had a FaceTime with him, and by the time we got off that FaceTime, I was like, ‘Man could probably have talked me into doing anything,’” King tells Variety with a laugh.

“He had such a clear vision. He knew exactly the music that he wanted,” she adds, recounting how the filmmaker broke out his guitar during the virtual meeting to give her a taste of the Caribbean music and Afrobeats that he planned to infuse into the film. “He was able to describe the shots that he wanted for particular scenes so vividly, and that was impressive and exciting.”

King was also excited by Samuel’s “Black and beautiful” view of the era, spotlighting real-life Black “cowpeople,” like Nat Love, Rufus Buck, Stagecoach Mary, Cherokee Bill and Bass Reeves, played in this epic western story by Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Zazie Beetz, LaKeith Stanfield and Delroy Lindo, respectively. Samuel cast King as “Treacherous” Trudy Smith, a character based on a little-known woman named Gertrude Smith.

“There may be only one image, and there’s not a lot of history written on her,” King says. “So, here I have a space to really just play. I don’t have to be beholden to any certain image or story when it comes to her, and [Samuel] just encouraged me to do that.”

King ultimately had the freedom to determine how Trudy would look, sound and occupy space within Samuel’s “New West,” and from the moment she appeared in the first footage from the western, it was clear to fans that this was a new type of character — she’s not a damsel in distress. She’s the boss.

“Regina King has long been one of my favorite actors,” Samuel says, explaining why he approached her for the part.

“From the scene when she got angry with her brother-in-law in ‘Jerry Maguire’ to when she was shouting at Ray [Charles] and then started singing ‘Hit the Road Jack,’ she is one of the best actors in the universe,” he continues. “So I want her as a baddie busting her gun.”

But it still came as a “jaw-dropping” surprise that the newly-minted Oscar winner (who picked up the best supporting actress trophy for “If Beale Street Could Talk” in 2019) would sign on for his movie — “something so bizarre as a Western,” Samuel quips — as her next acting role.

Read the full interview/article in our press library.

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