While the main plot of Queen & Slim tackles big issues like police brutality and the plight of Black folks in America today, the genius of this masterpiece lies in the intricate details. Through the title characters, (who are actually unnamed until the last moments of the film) Lena Waithe manages to illuminate the complexities and vastness of the Black experience, while zeroing in on two very specific people.
Jodie Turner-Smith is mesmerizing as Queen. When we meet her, she’s a polished, buttoned-up, non-believer whose expectation of excellence extends beyond herself and onto everyone she encounters. She’s here to make a mark on the world.
Daniel Kaluuya is flawless as Slim; an easy-going guy who doesn’t expect too much from anyone. He relishes the simple things in life like faith and family and would be content if the person he loves remembers him when he’s gone.
Somehow, these two characters manage to represent the entire community in one way or the other. At once, they embody the Black experience so precisely and so differently, creating a snapshot of what it feels like to navigate this country at this time in these bodies.
What makes this fete particularly impressive is the fact that both of these talented actors are from across the pond and we couldn’t wait to find out how they approached the roles.
“I tried to be as specific as possible. This is this person, he’s from this kind of family, this kind of area, this is his level of education, this is what he does on the weekends. It’s the care. I think we live in a day and age where you have to be specific to be general,” Kaluuya says. “The approach is just respect.”
Turner-Smith was equally moved when she saw the film.
“The weight of the Black American experience is so heavy and I just had so much respect and reverence for telling the story of these people and this community that is living, that is resilient, that is refusing to be dehumanized no matter how much society is doing that to them,” she explains. “I felt the heaviness of that, the reverence of that, the respect of that. I feel like we did what we set out to do.”
The British actress has lived in the U.S. since she was 7-years-old, but she still had a lot to learn about our history.
“What she does with her life caused me to dive in to this idea of policing in America, policing of Black men and women in America. They don’t teach you a lot of this history and the realities of how this society was built around oppression in school.”
Jodie Turner-Smith says the role had a profound effect on her real life.
“I didn’t even recognize myself. It wasn’t me. That even overwhelmed me more because all I wanted to do was tell the truth,” she says.
“This truth is obviously pulling from so many elements of what this experience is of being a Black woman in America. A Black woman who has pain and who has built walls around herself. It changed me to do it and it changed me to watch it.”
Even though the actor who has starred in films like Black Panther and Widows was in almost every frame of the immensely powerful flick, Daniel Kaluuya admits he was blown away by the finished product.
“I just couldn’t speak. I was speechless,” Kaluuya says of his reaction to the film. Overtime I see it, it puts me in a place…There’s a lot of soul and there’s an eeriness to it. I don’t know what hat eeriness is.”
Check out the full interview above.
Queen & Slim is in theaters now. Don’t miss it.