‘The Hate U Give’ Interview: Amandla Stenberg

We’ve talked about this before, but it bears repeating: The Hate U Give is not just the movie we want, no, in this current political climate, it’s a movie we need.

And you might say, well, what can a movie do? Can it really make an impact? Can it make us change the way we see the world? And to that we say a resounding yes. We’ve all grown up looking at our entertainment for clues on how we should dress, what we should say, and even how we should behave. That hasn’t changed. What has changed – or maybe, what people have finally realized – is the need for that entertainment to teach us about life, to put what’s going on in the world in perspective.

Talking to Amandla Stenberg about The Hate U Give was pure joy. Because she gets it. She’s not just there to play a role and get out, no, she’s fully here for the message this movie is sending. And that’s what we want from our artists. We want this commitment. No, we need it.

Check out our set interview with Stenberg, and make sure you make plans to go see the movie. Trust us, you really need to.

This book has a super important message, but why do you think it’s so important that it becomes a movie that so many people are going to see?

Amandla: I feel like there are endless reasons why it’s important, but the primary reason I think it’s important is because it’s so easy to become desensitized to what’s happening in America when the news is so saturated with it. I think it becomes easy for us to view topics, such as Black Lives Matter, as not real or pertinent to us. And so what I think is way powerful about putting it in a format — in a film — is it becomes personal, it becomes real and you actually see it as a human story as opposed to just a headline. I think that it can do a lot for the humanization of black people, the humanization of the families and the victims that are affected by police brutality. Something else that I relate to and am excited to see in a film is you never get to see what it’s like for a black person to navigate different spaces. And that’s something that ours does consistently. I was talking to Angie Thomas (WHO?) and something she said was, ‘You either get to see the Will or the Carlton. You don’t get to see someone that gets to navigate both spaces. So that was something I immediately connected to when I read the book. Because I actually lived in a lower income black neighborhood and went to a white private school an hour and a half away. So when I saw this material — with a character who has to figure out how to coexist/code-switch between those two environments — that was something I could really identify with and was amazed by.


Were there any struggles in your personal life that helped you prepare for this role?

A: Absolutely. I think just the struggle of trying to understand your identity in a space where you’re very isolated when it comes to background. I was one of very few black girls in my class, and I don’t think there were any boys of color. So figuring out who I was within that space was challenging at moments — at many moments. What was most challenging was when I was younger I didn’t quite understand why I was being treated the way I was, why I didn’t feel as worthy or as valuable as the white girls who were in my class. So I think as I got older I was able to place words and actually analyze and deconstruct why I was feeling those things. A lot of the time I wasn’t understood. I had to create a different version of myself in that environment or to fit in and assimilate.

Do you have advice for any girls or kids that can relate to or feel the same way at their schools?

A: But like Starr at the end of the film, and like myself at this point in my life, I realize that both parts or all parts of myself are real parts and are valuable parts. And that I don’t have to necessarily choose. That I can still be one whole contained person without feeling like there are any divides within myself because all those parts are true and real.

What has being part of this movie taught you about yourself?

A: It’s taught me a lot. I think probably it’s taught me a lot about my emotional limit and capacity because Starr has to go through so much. And so I realized that I think this is one of those projects where I took on a lot of that realizing it. So her experience, I feel like I’m actually living and I’ve learned a lot about the places that I can push myself to emotionally and how I can actually take on those feelings for myself. I think I’ve learned a lot about my strengths in a lot of ways through Starr’s strength and through the way in which she speaks up and stands for herself. I think that has made me feel like I can do that for myself as well because of…it’s forced me to further push that part of myself out into the atmosphere as opposed to just carrying it within. I learned so much. I learned a lot about acting. I’ve learned a lot about identity because the project is so close to my own life in a lot of ways. I think it’s forced me to reflect really deeply. Through that I think I’m actually now, for the first time, truly feeling like I have an understanding of my identity, having experienced almost a sort of identity crisis for the past ten years of going to a school with white people.

You mentioned obviously that this pushed you emotionally and on an emotional level, and you are basically in every single scene, so what’s been (so far) or the hardest scene for you to film?

A: I think we have the most challenging scenes out of the way. The most challenging scenes were shooting Khalil’s death, the shooting by the cop, and the interrogation scene directly after. Those were the most challenging. And also just having to cover up the grief. That’s what is kind of challenging, is immediately after Starr goes through this event she has to then cover up that feeling while being in a space she doesn’t really feel like she belongs in and I think that’s really hard.

What do you hope the audiences take away from this segment after they’ve seen it?

A: I hope they humanize, that they’re able to see black lives as human, and black lives as mattering.

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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