Ava DuVernay on why she fought hard to cast Storm Reid in ‘A Wrinkle in Time’

The breakout star is representing Black girl nerds everywhere.

You may not know the name Storm Reid right now, but by March 10—the day after her $100 million Disney film, A Wrinkle in Time hits theaters—you will.

storm reid ava duvernay thegrio.com
O, The Oprah Magazine Hosts Special NYC Screening Of 'A Wrinkle In Time' At Walter Reade Theater NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 07: Ava DuVernay and Storm Reid attend as O, The Oprah Magazine hosts special NYC screening of 'A Wrinkle In Time' at Walter Reade Theater at Walter Reade Theater on March 7, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Hearst)

You may not know the name Storm Reid right now, but by March 10—the day after her $100 million Disney film, A Wrinkle in Time hits theaters—you will.

The 14-year-old actress is brilliant in her role as Meg Murray in the updated film adaptation of the classic book about a young girl whose father has disappeared into another dimension.

Before you start the comparisons, A Wrinkle in Time is not just another Disney movie. This film is an event, and Reid is a huge reason why. The Atlanta native’s portrayal gives a new generation (and even the older ones) an example of a sci-fi Black-Girl-Magic hero, something we’ve never really seen before now.

Flying high

The film’s significance is more than a defining moment; it’s a redefining moment for all generations of Black and Brown girl nerds who never saw kids who looked like them as heroes in Sci-Fi blockbusters.

“I always dreamed of flying and I didn’t get to do it,” said the film’s visionary director, Ava DuVernay of never seeing herself represented in the kinds of fantasy adventure films she loved gas a kid. “But Storm got to do it for us.”

Co-star Mindy Kaling echoed that sentiment.

“I loved science fiction and fantasy growing up, but it was a genre that largely did not love me back,” said Kaling. “I never saw any representation of a dark skinned Indian woman or Indian girl in anything.”

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In that way, being a part of A Wrinkle in Time was healing for Kaling.

“I finally feel welcomed with open arms to something that has ignored me completely. That is so profound. [This is] something that the miniature version of me could watch and be excited by,” she said.

 A star is born

Of course, representation matters, but that alone is not enough. For A Wrinkle in Time to truly mark a cultural moment, it has to have a great story with an amazing, child star. Enter Storm Reid, whose talent DuVernay recognized the moment she auditioned.

“If Meg is wack, you do not have a movie,” said DuVernay, explaining why she fought for nearly two months to get Reid in the role. Reid was locked into a contract on another project and DuVernay suggested to the negotiators, “Well, get rid of the other project! We’re Disney!”

It was “the biggest gift,” she said of the moment she found out Reid was free to do the film. Audiences around the world will soon understand why.

Even when standing next to the indubitable, Oprah Winfrey, Reid owns the screen. There are scenes where Reid is able to display the entirety of her character’s complex mix of pain, betrayal, abandonment and anger all within her expressive eyes. And when Meg and her friend Calvin (Levi Miller) are in a bind, she uses physics to calculate how to save them both, leaving Calvin and everyone else, who will fall in love with this character, in complete awe.

When the credits roll and you hear the melodic voice of Sade singing, “Flower of the Universe,” (her first new song in eight years), you will know you’ve witnessed something special—a little Black girl coming into her destiny.

Actor Oprah Winfrey, Director Ava DuVernay and Actor Storm Reid participate in the press conference for Disney’s ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ in Hollywood, CA on March 25, 2018 (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

Greatness to come

Greatness can be a hard, lonely road—especially for a child, and most especially in Hollywood. Fortunately, Reid has the support of her family and the protection of two profound mentors in DuVernay and Winfrey.

“This girl has been raised well,” said Winfrey, clutching Reid’s left hand in both of her own.

Winfrey praised Reid’s parents, especially her mother, who was on set every day of production, before recounting the story of the “beautiful” experience of seeing Reid watch herself in A Wrinkle in Time for the first time. Like the rest of the cast, Reid felt very proud of the film, but would later voice some concerns about how people would react to seeing her success.

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“Do you remember what I told you about fame?” Winfrey asked, turning to Reid who gave the biggest smile before answering.

Yes. Ms. Oprah said, with fame, you are not going to change; you’re going to stay exactly the same. The people around you are going to change. That moved me and touched me because a lot of people were saying [the opposite],” said Reid. “I had to take a look, and…be able to find the genuine people in my life.”

Reid isn’t hoping for fame or fortune, but instead wants to help her peers and others around the world to “feel inspired,” and to “find a piece of themselves in the movie.”

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“I just hope that they know that they are special and worthy of being loved,” she said. “Essentially, I just want them to know that they are enough. And, they can be the light for the world and themselves and their communities.”

Brooke Obie is the author of the award-winning Black revolution novel ‘Book of Addis: Cradled Embers.