Film Review of
On November 2,
a sweep of the
in the tiny town
who was taken
funeral of his
been issued by
the county on
the word of an
claimed to have
from each of the
the fact that
the ex-con was
a history of
and was himself
charges at the
all of the
most of the
to make bail,
let alone hire a
jail for several
to the pressure
to plead guilty
to a lesser
charge in return
rather than face
of a lengthy
folks from the
projects had all
victimized by a
ACLU would clear
their names with
the help of one
willing to risk
wrath of the
against them in
details of her
set against the
backdrop of that
is the subject
many a family in
by Tim Disney
Walt Disney, the
Beharie as Dee
Roberts, a 24
life comes apart
at the seams
when she finds
ensnared in a
to rid the town
of black people
We see that
framed for a
crime she didnít
commit, Dee had
along if not
caring for her
trying to save
resources or the
to handle the
visited upon a
person like Dee
up against an
the truth. For
when she is
held on $70,000
bail, the ripple
effect of the
that she stands
to lose her
job, her savings
and custody of
her children in
Ms. Beharie, a
efforts on the
part of a
topped by such
A movie which
earns high marks
simply for being
with the guts to
in such an
leveled at the
of Tenaha just
Fair warning: Do
family a favor
and steer clear
of that racist
oasis if you
happen to be
* * * * *
stars) / Rated
/ Running time:
Goldwyn Films /
To see a trailer
To see a news
* * * * *
The ďAmerican VioletĒ Interview with Kam Williams
recent grad of the acting program at the prestigious Juilliard School,
Nicole Beharie made her screen debut just last fall in The Express,
a bittersweet bio-pic 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
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 ingťnue reflects upon her work in the movie which co-stars
Alfre Woodard and Charles S. Dutton.
Thanks so much for the time.
grateful that you wanted to speak with me.
KW: 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 Kellyís 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 didnít 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
KW: 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
didnít 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.
KW: 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 doesnít even look like me.
KW: 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.
KW: Does she still live in
NB: She recently moved, but they did a screening of the film in
Hearne a few weeks ago, right across from the District Attorneyís
KW: 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
KW: When did you develop an
interest in acting?
NB: Moving around all the time, you just have to keep yourself
entertained. And I was kind of a bully, even though Iím tiny, 5í 2Ē. As
a child, Iíd boss other kids around and dress my little brother up, just
putting on shows, singing and dressing up. I recently found a photo of
myself in front of my motherís closet, trying on her nylons and a
feathered boa. So, I think storytelling was always underneath my skin,
burning to get out.
KW: What type of training did
you get before Juilliard?
NB: When I lived in Orangeburg, South Carolina, I ended up attending
a school for the arts in Greenville. It was a better school and a better
situation. I guess my ticket to get in there was acting. I wasnít
planning on becoming an actress. I just wanted to go to a better school.
But I fell in love with it, and my senior year I applied to Juilliard,
NYU, Carnegie Mellon and other schools with theater programs. I got in,
took the risk, moved to New York and it kinda worked out.
KW: I guess you did a lot of
Shakespeare at Juilliard.
NB: I loved doing all the plays, including Shakespeare, which is
wonderful for honing your instrument. I wouldnít say Shakespeare was my
#1 favorite, but you do feel very alive when itís done well. Being in
front of the camera is nice, too. I think theyíre both beautiful types
of performing calling for different levels of energy. I also enjoy
singing in musicals.
KW: Watching American
Violet, I thought I saw another Juilliard graduate in the cast,
Anthony Mackie, playing the informant, but his name wasnít in the
NB: Yes, he and Tim Blake Nelson, another Juilliard grad, are both
in the picture.
KW: You had a great supporting
cast, including Alfre Woodard, Charles S. Dutton, Will Patton, Xzibit
and Michael OíKeefe. How was it working alongside so many seasoned pros?
NB: It was daunting. I was constantly reminding myself that they did
cast me. I remember being nervous out of mind during the first reading.
I love acting and Iím always doing readings, but this time, I knew the
stakes were high. And after working with them, I took away so much from
the experience because everyone was so generous with me. Michael reached
out to me. Will took me to see some independent films. And Alfre was an
KW: Well, I think the camera
likes you, you have a natural chemistry and powerful presence. I noticed
you the first time you came on screen in The Express. I sort of
thought, hey, who is that?
NB: Thank you. I skipped my graduation at Juilliard to do that film.
KW: Your debut was the scene
when you walked into the party with a girlfriend and the two of you were
introduced to Ernie Davis.
NB: Wow! Youíve got quite a memory.
KW: Is there any question no
one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
NB: Thatís an awesome question. What do I want you to ask me? HmmÖ
Iíll have to think about that.
KW: The Tasha Smith question:
Are you ever afraid?
NB: Yes, I think this whole process has you constantly facing your
fears and being courageous. But itís also exciting.
KW: The Columbus Short
question: Are you happy?
NB: Yeah, Iím really enjoying my time, and my family is really
excited for me. I was raised by a single-mother, and my sister was a
single-mom, too, so I think thatís one of the things that help me
understand my role in American Violet. And having them see the
fruits of my labors is really exciting. I just feel really blessed and
humbled, even that you want to talk with me right now.
KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson
question: What was the last book you read?
NB: Right now, Iím reading a spiritual essay by Ralph Wood Emerson,
"Self Reliance," and Strange Pilgrims, a collection of short
stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
KW: The music maven Heather
Covington question: What music are you listening to?
NB: Iím always listening to Nina Simone.
KW: One of her songs is in the
movie at the end.
NB: Yes, and I didnít know that when I first saw it. That thrilled
me. That made me so happy. It was so perfect. Besides Nina Simone, I
have some Common going on, some Joni Mitchell, and Beyoncť
when Iím working out.
KW: What has been the biggest
obstacle you have had to overcome?
The Rudy Lewis question: Whoís at the top of your hero list?
NB: My mom,
Teri Emerson would like to know when was the last time you had a good
NB: After my grandmother had a heart attack and all my relatives
came back home. We did everything in our power to lift her spirits, and
it did something for me too. My sister absolutely cracks me up. I was
rolling on the floor.
KW: How is your grandmother
NB: Much better, thanks.
KW: The Laz Alonso question:
Is there anything your fans can do to help you?
NB: By just giving me a chance. Iím new. I donít know that I have a
fan base yet.
KW: How do you want to be
NB: As an ever-changing person, like the weather and the seasons. I
want to have room to grow and morph and learn as Iím figuring it all
KW: Have you thought about a
question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
NB: Yes, Itís sort of abstract, but I would like to get creative
www.MySpace.com/NicoleBeharie about the film in the form of words,
music or any other artistic expression from people who have seen it.
Well, Nicole, thanks again and best of luck in the future.
To see a trailer for
American Violet, visit:
* * *
* * * * *
Super Rich: A Guide to Having it All
By Russell Simmons
Russell Simmons knows firsthand that
wealth is rooted in much more than the
market. True wealth has more to do with
what's in your heart than what's in your
wallet. Using this knowledge, Simmons
became one of America's shrewdest
entrepreneurs, achieving a level of
success that most investors only dream
about. No matter how much material gain
he accumulated, he never stopped lending
a hand to those less fortunate. In
Super Rich, Simmons uses his rare
blend of spiritual savvy and
street-smart wisdom to offer a new
definition of wealth-and share timeless
principles for developing an unshakable
sense of self that can weather any
financial storm. As Simmons says, "Happy
can make you money, but money can't make
* * * * *
The New Jim Crow
Mass Incarceration in the Age of
By Michele Alexander
Contrary to the
rosy picture of race embodied in Barack
Obama's political success and Oprah
Winfrey's financial success, legal
scholar Alexander argues vigorously and
persuasively that [w]e have not ended
racial caste in America; we have merely
redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial
segregation has been replaced by mass
incarceration as a system of social
control (More African Americans are
under correctional control today... than
were enslaved in 1850). Alexander
reviews American racial history from the
colonies to the Clinton administration,
delineating its transformation into the
war on drugs. She offers an acute
analysis of the effect of this mass
incarceration upon former inmates who
will be discriminated against, legally,
for the rest of their lives, denied
employment, housing, education, and
public benefits. Most provocatively, she
reveals how both the move toward
colorblindness and affirmative action
may blur our vision of injustice: most
Americans know and don't know the truth
about mass incarcerationóbut her
carefully researched, deeply engaging,
and thoroughly readable book should
* * * * *
The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Boisí
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
* * * * *
If you like this page consider making a donation
* * * * *
Negro Digest /
Browse all issues
* * * * *
The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
George Jackson /
* * *
The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
* * * * *
* * *
posted 12 April