‘Queen & Slim’ Stars Daniel Kaluuya & Jodie Turner Smith on The “Force” Behind The Film | In Studio

– Hi, I’m Jodie Turner-Smith. – Hello I’m Daniel Kaluuya and you’re watching In Studio
with Hollywood Reporter. (upbeat music) – We’re here to talk about Queen and Slim, which, for me, as soon
as I watched the movie, within the first minute, I was like, “All right I’m in, I’m in.” this movie if phenomenal
from top to finish. I really, really enjoyed it. – Thank you.
– Thank you. – So I wanted to ask you. You’re both in almost every scene together What did you do to prepare
to inhabit these roles? Did you spend any time together or were you kind of coming
in as your characters did, just meeting each other? – Well we spent a little
bit of time together like during the prep. You know after, ’cause the first time we
met was the chemistry read. And after that, we definitely
made a conscious effort to reach out to each other and to talk to each other and we met. We met up and hung out and then we got to New Orleans, you know, Daniel would come round mine or I would go to him and we would read, you know, scenes together. Which was really great
because I had no concept of what the workload would be like once we actually started. Cause I’d never been in anything where you’re on almost
every page of the script, together with someone. So there was never a time
after that point, really, to rehearse. – Yeah, we sat down and we kind of just
got to know each other. I do remember the night
before we started shooting in Cleveland. I went to her hotel room, and what did we… she taught me about alkaline water. She put it down, I was so paranoid. Now I thought, “Oh my God, I’m so acidic.” So I kinda… We just got to know each other. I think you have to be,
just have to be open and get on the same frequency. – So you worked with two
creative powerhouses, Melina Matsoukas, the director, and Lena Waithe, the writer and producer. What did you learn from each of them? Can you just tell me one
thing that kinda stands out that you learned from them? – What stands out for me, I think, for me is Lena’s just force. She’s a very inspirational force. How she has created a space
for this to be so unapologetic and so authored, and so singular, is really inspiring to see and I learnt a lot from that. I learnt a lot from what
you can ask from creativity. And from Melina, it’s just
knowing how much she cares, and seeing someone that’s so particular about every single inch
definitely made me look at the stuff I do, and made me go, “Oh, I need to step up.” If someone is as forensic on two looks, I had a lot of fittings over two looks, that’s not usually, for a man, that’s not usually a
focus, do you understand? So and she cared about everything. Every bit of detail, every kinda haircut, every kinda… She’d call me randomly and be like, “Yo, how are you growing your hair?” Like, way months before the shoot. And was like, “Yeah, make
sure you don’t cut it. “This, this, that and the other.” She wanted it to be the best it can be. – The biggest thing that
I think I took from both of them was just that they’re
two very powerful women and they’re aware of, they really know who they are. They really know who they are
and they really speak that into the spaces that they inhabit, which I think is a very powerful thing and I think, often, as
women in different spaces, we often feel like we have
to make ourselves smaller or we have to accommodate
the spaces that we’re in, but they both have this
boldness about who they are, about their talent, this fearlessness, that they speak into… They speak their energy into
the rooms that they’re in and whatever doing. That’s so powerful and I really, you know, that was something that I really admired and took as a lesson in
really how to do that. – Jodie, it sounds a lot
like you’re describing the character that you
inhabited in this movie. How was it for that to be
your first leading role? – I mean, it was really special
to be able to play a woman as complex and fully formed, and intriguing and interesting as Queen. And she’s definitely very
much like some parts of Melina and, obviously, Lena wrote the script so there’s gonna be her in that as well. And I think that the
collaboration that came from when everyone, you know, when you guys worked
on the script as well, and when Lena and Melina
talked about it and everything, there are so many elements in this script that come from real
conversations that they’ve had amongst themselves. And so there is that kind of
element of they’re in that. But I think also, just as a black woman, there’s something, you know, much of who Queen is, I think, was an experience relatable
to any black woman. That she could look at that and say like, “I understand who this woman is “and why she ticks.” And I think that’s why it was
something that was so popular when we all read it. All of us in the community (mumbles) and we’re like, “Wow, this woman is “so interesting and amazing” and I think it’s because as black women, we could sort of relate to so
much about her in that way. I think there’s a common
thread in the experience, in the struggle, in the
desire to be excellent and to carry yourself in a
certain way to hide your pain and things like that. – Is there any particular scene
that you’re kind of excited for the public to see? Any of those great
interactions that you have as your two characters go on the run. – For me, it’s, I think, Uncle
Earl’s house is a sequence that I just think is fascinating. Uncle Earl is Queen’s uncle in the film. And it’s interesting,
someone did actually say, the parallels of black masculinity between Slim and Uncle
Earl in the sense that when you see him the most unhinged, it’s when he’s under the influence. And what he does when he’s unhinged. And people would see that man as the most outwardly confident
version of a black man. And having someone like
Slim who’s very simple, very content, very
vulnerable in this film, but shows this strength in
that he shows up for Queen in the film. And those parallels, and Queen
being in the center of it, do you understand? And understanding of why Queen, I just had this thought now, why Queen is the way she
is because of the men she’s been exposed to, do you understand? And she’s just probably assuming (mumbles) probably assuming that “Well,
you ain’t nothing anyway,” do you understand? I find Uncle Earl as a
study of black masculinity and the parallels it has
with Slim, fascinating. Just really fascinating sequence. – Let’s talk a little bit about
the politics of the movie. I don’t want you to have to
speak for your entire nation, but as to British people, what is your experience with
police officers in the UK? Do you have similar
experiences that Americans do? – I can only speak for me. This is something I intimately
know, not logically know. And this is stuff that, like, to the point where being
stopped and searched as a kid, I feel like was normal. I thought this was everyone. It happened to everyone around me. And then only being a man
and looking back, go “Oh.” And friends opening up about their stories and going, “That’s a bit
weird that they got kicked “in that position.” – And I, you know, I really did do, as
well, a lot of research on policing in America and policing of the black man in America because when you really dive into it, you learn so many things. Even why police were
formed in this country, which was as a tool to catch slaves. And how you see the connection, because, you know, obviously
there’s certain nuances that are specific to this country that we’re talking about specifically. I definitely think that, as a
black person living anywhere in the world, you understand oppression, you understand state violence, you understand all of those
things ’cause that’s happening all over the world. And whether it’s happened
to you personally, you understand it logically. – Your characters are folk heroes. That they kind of are
part of a long tradition of the American folk hero. Daniel, you spoke a little
bit about Angela Davis. Daniel, is there any folk
heroes that inspired you as you took on this role? – No. No. It was more just, kind of, I wanted to feel as human and
as grounded and as everyman as possible. I think that… I don’t think he, I genuinely
don’t think Slim believes he is a hero or can be a hero. He even says it, he goes, “I ain’t gonna bend the world. “I just want a lady that
remembers me fondly.” Do you know what I’m saying? He’s a rare… He’s a person that isn’t
pushed into the forefront in this day and age ’cause
he doesn’t want much. He doesn’t want the attention, he doesn’t want the
limelight, the spotlight, and that’s such an incredible candidate to be in this situation because he’s just trying to survive. – Where are you going? – I’ma find somebody with a
phone so I can call my family. – If you do that then
they’ll know where we are. – Great. – What if they kill us?
– Don’t say that! – There’s no guarantee they won’t! You’re a black man that killed a cop and then took his gun. – I’m not a criminal. – You are now. – Congratulations, Queen And Slim. Beautiful movie, check it out.

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