I am always humbled that we are invited to movie sets, but no set has ever affected me the way that the visit to the set of The Hate U Give did. Traveling to Atlanta last year, I took in every moment and realized quickly that if there is one movie that we all need to see, it’s this one.
If you aren’t familiar with the book, I encourage you to go out and get yourself a copy. The book is about Starr, a girl who came from a poverty stricken neighborhood, but now attends a prep school. She saw her best friend get killed by the police and must find the best way to speak out about the incident while gravitating both worlds.
Sitting down and talking to Regina King, I was instantly moved by her presence. Her commitment to this film – this story – was evident from the get go. It’s a story that needs to be told, that deserves to be told. It’s a story that will make you examine your life and the way the world is. And if it doesn’t then you aren’t paying attention.
Why do you think that this is the perfect time to make this film?
It’s a book that resonates on so many levels. Just present day but, you know, historically. To see a movie like this through the perspective of a young girl, it’s kind of like fresh eyes on an age old situation and so I think now is the time where we have a youth that’s a lot more aware, a lot more informed. With social media there are a lot of things—even the way things are done in the book and the movie with cameras and phones. I think it’s just timely with how technology is and the way our youth is able to understand social and racial injustice. And so I think…to be able to give society, young and old, the opportunity to see a movie that really thematically is about love and family and forgiveness and redemption, I just think it’s a great time to be received.
What drew you to this character?
I think I loved the concept. I loved the book but I think I loved the concept of was to see that Star really came from a strong family: a very strong, smart husband and wife. A lot of the times, when you see certain socio economic conditions in films or in real life, it’s a single parents. She has a present mother who also understands what she’s going through which I do too. I grew up in Washington, DC…it was predominately black but I went to a predominately white school where I had amazing friends. We didn’t have the internet…so we were kind of in our sweet, kind bubble but it definitely was a difference between what my everyday life was and what my life was at school. Those things are always internal a lot too. You are, as your grow up, you are aware of the differences. And an awareness doesn’t mean that it’s bad. It just means that it’s different. I kind of liked that idea and I liked the story as a whole so I just wanted to be a part of something where we got to tell a powerful story. I think lately I’m really surprised and shocked at how smart our young cultures are and how vocal and opinionated, and I think it’s wonderful.
Have your younger co stars surprised you with their opinions and their thoughts and how they’ve tackled such a powerful story?
They’ve surprised me with their awareness and their emotional presence. Like I said, my friends and I were aware of a lot but I feel like they have a lot more that they have to take in. I mean we had to take in school, but I feel like they’re taking in a lot of societal and collective pressures from the world and they have a lot of information but that’s a lot to process. So I’m always impressed by how smart they are and probably their emotional intelligence. They have a big emotional and spiritual awareness that I probably…I think I was religiously aware [at their age] but not spiritually.
How did you get this part?
I think a year or two ago George and Bob sent me the book and they were like ‘we’re working on this. Read it. We’d love to know what you think.’ I think George when he read it said that they had thought of me as Lisa the whole time. So yeah, it wasn’t an audition process like that but I definitely met with the executives and we talked about the script and I was just excited to see the movie come together and to see Russell and meet my kids. It’s weird because you’re like ‘oh, you’re my babies. Look at my family!’ Every time I’m in a scene I’m like ‘Russell, we did so good!’ I start feeling like they’re mine. It’s very odd.
Lisa is such a strong character. What qualities of her are easiest to bring to life and what’s so hard?
I think the protective part I totally get. That’s instinctive. I think the hardest part is what’s hard for Lisa. I mean, you do get protective and it is very scary in the scenes where she does have to testify for the grand jury. For me, that’s very hard. I don’t know that I’d be able to let my daughter—to let you children grow up, it’s hard…It’s very hard to think about staying in a neighborhood that you are so familiar with but is now threatening the thing you love the most. I always feel like Lisa is conflicted with Garden Heights.
The great part about the character is that it’s almost natural. I feel like as a mother, it’s very natural to feel protective. But then, they have to grow up and it’s a scary world. The more you know the scarier it is. And of course the more you know, the less control. You realize that you don’t have control over it anyway. It’s a conflict of playing that but also playing a sense of faith in your child.
Do you think there’s a scene in particular that you can’t wait to see come to life?
There was a scene we shot already…but I think at the diner, it’s a great scene because it’s the family together and we’re just having the most amazing meal…But the scene where [Maverick] has to get pretty much thrown against the wall, handcuffed—I feel like in the movie it will resonate, but the moment that you see what reality is like for them in Garden Heights, that felt like a powerful scene when I read it.
What are you hoping that come to the theatre walk away with?
I hope people walk away feeling hopeful that we really are the difference, how we look at each other, how we love each other. Those things that are important. I love the relationship between Chris and Star where Chris is from a different world but he loves her.
Let us be bigger than our assumptions so that we get to know people individually. We become bigger than these prejudgments that we have, and I think that that’s what I loved about that is that it’s growth. Everyone should really feel proud of who they are. I don’t think we should make anyone feel not proud. Latino, black, white, asian—we are just people everyday trying to make ideally better choices and better decisions. I just hope we start to see the humanity in one another and I hope people leave feeling hopeful that our voices make a difference and what we think make a difference.
What’s been the hardest scene for you to film?
Filming the funeral scene was hard because we actually had Algee who’s playing Khalil in the coffin. And I think any time you sit with that and see we’re looking at a young, 16-year-old boy dead and the subsequent marches that happened outside, it’s emotional. And maybe also shooting Star’s interrogation scene; that was a big scene. And a lot of that is because Star is so emotional and that’s always hard too because Star…has so many emotional scenes.
The movie will release October 5th in some markets, according to Deadline. The release will then get a little wider and expand to some other markets on October 12th before the official release hits on October 19th.
The Hate U Give stars Amandla Stenberg, Russell Hornsby, Regina Hall, Common, Anthony Mackie, Issa Rae, KJ Apa, Lamar Johnson and Algee Smith. George Tillman Jr. directs the adapted script written by Audrey Wells.
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