Leslie Odom Jr., Aldis Hodge, Eli Goree, and Kingsley Ben-Adir on the Brotherhood of One Night in Miami | Interviews

In “One Night in Miami” there are so many fly-on-the-wall conversations that we, as Black people, are used to having. The film is almost like a barbershop in a hotel room. How much weight did you feel trying to translate these frank conversations?

EG: I didn’t feel weight. Because weight to me is like a burden. I felt excitement. That’s the thing I loved so much about the script: It wasn’t the same old biopic. It didn’t start off as he was a child, somewhere, in some hard circumstance, and then he started to grow. In “Ali,” this night [February 25, 1964] happens in that film. But it’s here, and then it’s gone. That’s what you miss when you try to put someone’s life—like Malcolm X or Cassius Clay—into two hours. The beautiful thing about this is you can go on a deep dive and unpack a charged moment and see just how much life is in one conversation. For example, you could make a movie about the day Nelson Mandela gets out of prison. You can make a movie about his whole life, or you can make a movie about that one day because that’s enough for a movie. I reveled in the opportunity to be able to tell this story, which I think was necessary and beautiful.

AH: I didn’t really feel any weight. I felt elation. Part of my charge as an artist is to exhibit the things that people may not understand. Or to show the things that people do go through so they know they’re being recognized. For these kinds of conversations, I was happy because we get to show people what we be talking about. This is what goes on. And you cannot deny us. 

You have a super-megastar singer, a super-megastar football player, and the heavyweight champion of the world. You have all of these men you would think are removed from any effects that the rest of us go through—but no; they go through the exact same thing. Their position in life, their money, and their influence means nothing when you stack that up against them being Black in America. People look at me speaking on issues and they say, “But you’re a successful actor.” First of all, we’re not even talking about that. We’re talking about the value my life has versus yours. It’s not the same. So stop denying it, especially when you don’t experience it. 

KBA: As a working actor, so much of this job is just about treading water and trying to get the next gig. Other actors are probably interviewing all the time and analyzing the work. They’re in a very luxurious position at the top; where they get to decide what type of character they want to play. They’re shaping their careers. But for the rest of us, we’re just out here. So when this opportunity came, it was a very serious situation. It’s an opportunity to show Regina King your acting. 

Sometimes casting directors, they look at your tapes first, and then they decide whether they’re good enough. But I was like, “I think Regina is actually going to watch these” because they’re really trying to find a Malcolm. That was a joy in itself. The weight of it was, yes, playing Malcolm, but also showing the work to Regina, and just getting to do what you’ve always dreamed about.

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