Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, Leslie Odom Jr. interview: ‘One Night in Miami’
“If I was part of the conversation, I would ask, coming from my perspective, what they would think of the times today and what they would do to help us fix where we’re at,” reveals Aldis Hodge about the first thing he would say if he was in a room with the four Black icons at the center of “One Night in Miami.” “The question might be [in return],” he ponders, “why hasn’t that work been done and what hasn’t been accomplished?”
“One Night in Miami” imagines what might have happened when Cassius Clay a.k.a. Muhammad Ali (Eli Goree), Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.), Jim Brown (Hodge) and Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir) came together in a Miami hotel room after Clay defeated Sonny Liston in February of 1964. What transpires between these giants is a lively and timely discussion set against the backdrop of the tumultuous 1960s.
We talked with actors Goree, Hodge and Odom as part of Gold Derby’s special “One Night in Miami” Q&A event, in which they shared stories about the making of the film and how it reflects on the current cultural and political landscape. Watch our interview above.
“What we’re still fighting to overcome today is that because we have made some progress in certain areas, in many ways, we’ve also digressed in many areas,” Goree observes, lamenting that the fight against systemic racism is far from over. Hodge agrees, adding that “the goal, the dream has not been accomplished, so there’s still a lot more work to do.” While Odom is on the same page as his fellow cast mates about the film’s message, the Tony-winning actor believes that the film is ultimately an expression of joy, characterizing its core purpose as “adding to the canon of images of black humanity.”
“I wanted them full of life in that room. This is a moment of celebration. There’s so much joy in this film and friendship and camaraderie and that’s what binds them,” Odom declares. “That’s what keeps them in the room. That is what has sustained us. It is not this never-ending worship of our own pain, of our own difficulties in this country. What has sustained us is joy. What has sustained us is passion and black brilliance. They are rallying around a young king in Cassius Clay. We all see something in him, you know, that reminds us of ourselves and then some. So, there’s so much celebration on that night. After all, he’s the new champ.”
The Amazon Studios film is Oscar and four-time Emmy-winning actress Regina King‘s feature directorial debut, adapted by writer Kemp Powers from his 2013 stage play of the same name. It has been a strong awards contender since it premiered at the Venice Film Festival over Labor Day weekend last year, where King made history as the first African-American female director invited to show a film there. It was met with rave reviews upon its release late last year and has so far racked up three Golden Globe nominations (for King, Odom Jr. in supporting and for original song “Speak Now”), with Odom Jr. also bagging an individual SAG nomination and the film’s cast in the running for Best Film Ensemble.