“We had an opportunity to show the world how we love on each other, how black people with all of the injustices and always feeling like our backs are up against the wall, we still find some way to laugh, to dance even with all of that,” explains Regina King about the familial love at the heart of “If Beale Street Could Talk.” Watch our exclusive video interview with King above.
Based on a novel by James Baldwin, “Beale Street” stars KiKi Layne as Tish Rivers, who fights to free her boyfriend Fonny (Stephan James) from prison after he’s falsely accused of a crime in 1970s New York City. King plays Tish’s mother Sharon, who is just as determined to prove Fonny’s innocence. “No matter what your background is,” says King, “you can relate to family support, how love gets you through things” and how love can help you survive “trials and tribulations.” At one point, even as Tish starts to lose faith, Sharon still encourages her to “trust love all the way,” which gives the film its tagline.
So even though the film explores an all too familiar theme of racism in the criminal justice system, there is an undercurrent of hope expressed in the way the Rivers family takes care of their own. King, her co-stars and writer-director Barry Jenkins were able to convey that because “we all come from very loving families, and we all have reached the places of success that we have reached because of the love and support of our families.” Baldwin’s work remains tragically relevant “because of where we are as a country still” in regard to “being black in America,” but King wants audiences to experience not just the outrage, but also “that hug that we feel … when we read James Baldwin’s work.”
That’s also what King hopes will come out of the film’s awards campaign. As of this writing “Beale Street” has been nominated for three Golden Globes and five Critics’ Choice Awards, along with myriad prizes from regional critics. King, a three-time Emmy winner, has been named Best Supporting Actress by film journos from Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Toronto and Washington DC. “I hope that the awards season translates into people coming to see the movie because we feel like we’ve really been blessed to be part of something special,” says King, who is also trusting love all the way when it comes to word of mouth. “If it moved you and it made you feel a certain way … tell a friend, tell them to bring a friend because I think they’ll leave feeling like you put them onto something, you left them with a little gift.”
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