Conversation with . . . Nicole Beharie

16 04 2009

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Based on a true story, “American Violet” tells the courageous story of a young woman wrongfully accused and jailed who must fight for her freedom. Kam Williams sat down with this exciting new discovery and star of the fiery story, Nicole Beharie.

A recent grad of the acting program at the prestigious Juilliard School, Beharie made her screen debut just last fall in “The Express,” a bittersweet biopic about the abbreviated life of Ernie Davis, the first African-American recipient of the Heisman Trophy. Now, in just her second film, the promising young thespian has already handled her first leading role.

In “American Violet,” a riveting drama based on a real-life case of racial profiling and malicious prosecution in a tiny Texas town, she plays a single-mother of four falsely accused of dealing drugs. Here, the emerging ingenue reflects upon her work in the movie which co-stars Alfre Woodard and Charles S. Dutton.

Thanks so much for the time.

Nicole Beharie: I’m grateful that you wanted to speak with me.

The honor is all mine, after I witnessed what a superb job of acting you did in this film. What interested you in the role?

NB: This particular script moved me. I had a dream about it, and when I went in for the call back, I met with the director Tim Disney, and the writer Bill Haney. When they told me about their investment in the project and Regina Kelly’s actual story, and how she had cooperated with the ACLU, I was just moved by them as human beings. I knew right then and there that I wanted to collaborate with them in some way. I told them at the second audition that if they didn’t want to cast me as the lead, I was willing to play another part because I cared that much about the story. But the audition went well, and things worked out in my favor.

Did you have a chance to meet the woman you were portraying, Regina Kelly?

NB: Of course I got to spend a lot of time with her, although we didn’t get to meet until on set. I also got to spend time with numerous people from the town in Texas who had gone through the raids, characters you see in the film on the periphery.

How did she react to seeing her life story being made?

NB: I think she was probably a little bit nervous initially watching me be her, wondering who is this girl who doesn’t even look like me.

Was she really a single-mom with four children?

NB: Yes, she has four daughters the same ages as the girls in the film, the whole nine yards. Most of the story is pretty accurate.

Does she still live in Hearne, Texas?

NB: She recently moved, but they did a screening of the film in Hearne a few weeks ago, right across from the District Attorney’s office.

Where did you grow up?

NB: I was born in West Palm Beach, Florida, and spent time in South Carolina and Atlanta. I did a lot of moving around because my father was in the foreign service. So, I also lived in Nigeria, Panama and Washington, DC. I was up and down the East Coast, and in a few random countries. [Laughs]

To read the rest of Williams’ interview, click here.

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3 responses

17 04 2009
American Violet Review « FilmGordon

[…] Conversations with . . . Nicole Beharie […]

18 04 2009
American Violet Review | ray ray russell

[…] drama, “American Violet.” Anchored by a powerful lead performance from rising newcomer, Nicole Beharie, she elevates the material from “movie of the week” to one of the most important […]

19 04 2009
American Violet Review | the cougar reality show

[…] drama, “American Violet.” Anchored by a powerful lead performance from rising newcomer, Nicole Beharie, she elevates the material from “movie of the week” to one of the most important […]

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