Actress Regina King made her directorial debut this year with the critically acclaimed “One Night in Miami.”
The film explores a fictional conversation shared between Cassius Clay, Malcolm X, singer Sam Cooke and NFL great Jim Brown in 1964 — just as America was laying the blueprint for a pivotal Civil Rights Act that brought an end to the Jim Crow era.
The project was one of importance to King, who says seeing the film’s iconic figures discussing their perceptions of a free and fruitful life that Black Americans could have is a conversation that still exists today.
“It’s a beautiful story of brotherhood, just a display of Black men expressing themselves healthily in a space that we don’t get the opportunity to see Black men be,” said King a month after the film’s release.
Illuminating that truth is part of her purpose that fuels her life’s work.
“I think that God put me here to tell more of our stories. It was the reminder that a Black story is an American story.”
When grappling with the prominent deaths of Black men and women in 2020, King says the film could not have been more on time, or any more relatable.
“When we become complacent and we don’t continue to be diligent, things can lead right back to where they were, so that’s what makes the conversation in ‘One Night in Miami’ so urgent right now. Because Black people dying in the streets is happening again,” King explained during an interview with CBS’ Michelle Miller.
She continued, “I felt like I knew all of these men. I saw my son in these conversations. I saw my father in these conversations. They love, they’re vulnerable, they’re strong.”
King, who won her first Oscar in 2019 for her role in “If Beale Street Could Talk,” is again hearing the Oscar buzz. She also became the first Black woman director to have a film selected for the Venice Film Festival.
But even with the project receiving an outpouring of support from audiences and critics, King’s casting choice was questioned. With an influx of Black British actors — to include Idris Elba, “Snowfall’s” Damson Idris and “All American’s” Daniel Ezra, landing leading roles in shows and films — some wondered why a Black American was not chosen to portray Malcolm X.
“If I was moved by a performance, I really don’t care where a person’s from,” King expressed. In “One Night in Miami,” British actor Kingsley Ben-Adir portrays Malcolm X and Canadian actor Eli Goree portrays boxing legend Cassius. “As an audience member,” said King, “to me, they truly understood what they were doing, what they were embodying.”