March 29, 2021  •  Claudia  •  No Comment  •  Magazines, Photoshoots

Anywhere, U.S.A. That’s where this family of three finds itself, in the backyard of a modest American home. It could be Los Angeles, Detroit, or New York. You can almost hear the sounds of DeBarge or Maze featuring Frankie Beverly—the quintessential track list for any Black family’s reunion, cookout, or lazy weekend afternoon. The fact that the star of these photos is the Oscar, Emmy, and Golden Globe–winning actress Viola Davis almost doesn’t register. Instead, we see a classical portrait of Black American life.

That was director Regina King’s intention when she orchestrated, with the photographer Andre D. Wagner, the images you see here. King began crafting the story months ago by watching old interviews of her friend Davis, in which she could hear “the pain as well as the beauty in the bruises” in her delivery. With her timeless appeal, Davis embodies King’s idea of what she terms Black Americana. “I don’t think any of us are particularly happy with the state of America, but we still embrace the fact that we are Black Americans, even with all of the things that have happened in history,” King told me.

King started out playing a rebellious teen on the 1980s sitcom 227, snagged supporting roles in early-’90s John Singleton films such as Boyz n the Hood and Poetic Justice, and returned to television in the aughts in The Boondocks and Southland. Along the way, she picked up numerous acting awards: four Emmys (two for American Crime, and one each for Seven Seconds and Watchmen), a Golden Globe, and an Oscar (both for If Beale Street Could Talk). In the past decade, her work as a director, initially on episodes of Scandal and Insecure, opened up new avenues for her as a storyteller who edges all of us closer to a clearer understanding of what it’s like to be Black in America.

Her feature directorial debut, One Night in Miami…, based on Kemp Powers’s play of the same name, is a fictionalized account of the real night in February 1964 that civil rights leader Malcolm X, championship heavyweight boxer Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay), NFL fullback Jim Brown, and soul musician Sam Cooke spent together. In King’s take, just months before both Malcolm X and Cooke would be killed, the men discuss the topics of colorism and economic freedom for Black Americans, disagree on the ways their unique, individual talents should intersect with their social responsibility as public figures, and wrangle with Malcolm X and Ali’s tricky relationship with the Nation of Islam. King can’t pinpoint the exact moment she realized she was a director, but said that in some ways she felt like she had prepared for this moment in her career throughout her entire life. “As an actor, I was paying attention and not really knowing why I was paying attention—why I would stay behind, why I would be on set when it wasn’t even my scene,” she said. “I didn’t really know why then, but I know now.”

Read the full interview/article in our press library.

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