Academy Award winning actress Regina King‘s feature film directorial debut, One Night In Miami, is arriving this week on Amazon Prime Video. An adaptation of Kemp Powers’ acclaimed stage play detailing a fictionalised meeting between Malcom X, Muhammed Ali, Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke in a Miami hotel room in 1964, the film has been met with widespread acclaim since its premiere at the Venice Film Festival.
In the lead up to its release, our own Peter Gray was fortunate enough to chat with actor Aldis Hodge, who portrays Jim Brown. After the two discovered they share a mutual friend, Peter and Aldis touched on the film’s reception, how Regina King was as a director, and the importance of the film’s release during the current climate of the world.
Congratulations on the film. The response has been incredible. Given that a good portion of the year felt so uncertain regarding film releases, it must feel even more gratifying that this film has come out, premiered at Venice and now this reaction…
Man, the reaction at Venice was unprecedented. I was like “What in the world? This is amazing!”. I mean for Regina (King) to make history as the first black female director to premiere there, and then to premiere to that response was incredible. If you wanna start, there is no better way than that! It’s been fantastic though, what i’ve noticed is that it’s been quite consistent with people enjoying the film, so i’m really proud of that. I know how important the subject is, how important the film is, and protecting the legacies of these men is a grand responsibility but i’m really happy with how people have gravitated towards it.
I understand filming took place around January of 2020, just outside of when COVID unfortunately shut productions down. How did you come to be involved with the film?
I just auditioned. We all had to audition. I was actually in Australia, in Sydney, when I was working out there (for The Invisible Man) and I had to figure it out through my filming schedule. The first time we all met as a cast was in December during a table read, and a week later we started shooting in New Orleans…it was crazy. We didn’t have a lot of time to prep but we shot January through February. It’s strange, during the time we shot the film to when we saw the film how much had changed in just a few months.
I was going to ask about that, because the four of you play off each other so effortlessly. There’s a lot of emotion, a lot of heart, a little tension…did you have much time to rehearse, to get to know each other?
We basically had no time, it was getting to know each other on set. I think that’s just a cheers to the work ethic of the cast and Regina, she kept us on track, helping us navigate where we needed to be with the script and the story. We had the words that were effortless and beautiful, Kemp Powers really made magic with that, but now it’s just up to us to put that passion and heart into it. We just all stayed in a constant state of work when it came to attacking these roles.
You play Jim Brown. How familiar with him were you prior?
I say that I was only really familiar with the idea of him. I knew about the football, I knew about the film work, a little about his activism, but not enough to know the real man. When I started doing the research I was enthralled and surprised by what I discovered him to be, which was someone who was quite an intellectual…it really blew my mind where his mentality was at such a young age and his proclivity for moving into business and taking control of his value and sharing that with his community. It was awesome doing the research and getting to understand this person from a completely different angle.
Do you feel there’s pressure in playing someone that is a real person, especially someone who is still alive?
Oh, there’s absolute pressure. There’s pressure to honour their legacy, to make sure you’re playing them with respect, to celebrate who they are and what they’ve accomplished. And then to give the people that know them – their friends, their family – give them a sense of familiarity that really resonates. There’s a challenge there but you just sink into your work and you say “I’m the right person for the job which is why i’m here”.
Have you met Jim Brown? Do you know if he’s seen the film?
I haven’t met him yet, but I did hear he has seen the film and that he enjoyed it, so I was quite happy to know that.
This movie feels like its from someone who is so incredibly seasoned, who has multiple films under their belt. How was Regina King as a director?
You would not be able to tell that this was her first time directing a film. I think just given all her experience as an actor…when you’re on set you’re just soaking up and learning all this experience and talent that she brought to her vision. She knew how to communicate to us, which I think is one of the most important things (she brought). Figuring out how to motivate your team in the right way is something she understood how to do, and there was never a time you felt like she was uncertain or unsure. She always gave you confidence, and she helped us to where we needed to be through collaboration. She was perfect in her execution, which we can already see the results of.
There’s obviously a distinct difference in working with a director who’s an actor themselves, so it’s the communication side of things?
Yeah. I’ve worked with directors before who don’t understand the value of that, who don’t understand the nubious of what motivates an actor’s choice sometimes. She understands both worlds, so she knows what she needs and how to get it, and she can talk to you about figuring out and understanding what the world is. You might not understand the backend of a story or a choice, but she’ll explain it to you and give you a whole new perspective so she can walk you into making the most appropriate choice for the scene.
This film feels like it’s coming out at a relevant time, given everything that has taken place over the least 12 months. There’s almost a sense of history repeating itself. What are your thoughts on that cyclical mentality?
History has always repeated itself. We have always stood against the atrocities of history. I’m waiting til we get to a point of normalcy where we don’t have to deal with the repeats, and the progress can remain constant. It just seems that this is what we naturally do. We’ve stood the test of time and we will continue to do so through our efforts. Us as artists get to do fantastic projects such as this, which I believe aids and assists in the progress we need to see, because of its representation and because it’s coming out at this time. We’ve got to fight the fight, but we just gotta keep moving forward and know that we have the strength to do so because we have these examples of representation and how it has been done before.
One Night In Miami is streaming on Amazon Prime Video from January 15th, 2021.