28 Days of Black Movies: Y’all, Malinda Williams was a whole 29 years old playing a middle schooler in ‘The Wood’

OPINION: If you ever needed proof that Black don’t crack, ‘The Wood’ has you covered.

Malinda Williams in "The Wood." (Screenshot/YouTube)

The Wood is one of my favorite movies. Maybe it’s because I could see my younger self and my friends in so many of the convos and situations, minus riding in cars with gangbangers to school dances after being accomplices in a corner store robbery. That whole scene, though—from corner store to being pulled over by police to (young) Mike (Sean Nelson) being given advice by Stacey (De’Aundre Bonds) on how to woo his little sister at the dance—is pure Black gold, and one of the reasons I find The Wood to be one of the most rewatchable movies ever. By the time The Wood is over, I’m always sad because I want more movie and more stories about young Mike, Ro (Trent Cameron) and Slim (Duane Finley).

But that’s not why we’re gathered here today, saints. We are gathered here in honor, remembrance and gratitude for Black genetics; Blenetics, if you will. You see, one day while I was rolling through the e-streets, I happened upon a movie that starred Malinda Williams (I think I was watching Daddy’s Little Girls), and I looked up how old Malinda Williams was when the film came out in 2007. The reason I looked up her age is that I got to thinking about Black folks who don’t seem to age—ya know, Pharrell, Bianca Lawson—and I was like, man, Malinda Williams was in movies in the 1990s and still looks the same. In 2007, Malinda Williams was 37; she was born in 1970. 

And then my mind got to mindin’ other folks’ business, and I was like, “P, Malinda Williams was in one of your favorite movies, The Wood, playing a middle school girl! But wait, The Wood came out in like 1999…but wait, that means Malinda Williams successfully pulled off being…14…AT AGE 29???!!!”

Malinda Williams plays young Alicia in the movie, and when the film starts, Mike has just moved from Winston-Salem, N.C., to Inglewood, Calif. (“the Wood”) and is joining the eighth grade. I have a daughter in the seventh grade right now who just turned 13. She will turn 14 next year in the eighth grade, so let’s say Alicia is 14. Malinda Williams played a kid, on a middle school playground amongst other actual children, as a 29-year-old grown-ass woman. She was a smooth 9 to 10 years older than all of her immediate co-stars playing middle schoolers. While she was 15 years older than the role she was playing, the others (Nelson, Cameron and Finley) were late teenagers. To make it even crazier, De’Aundre Bonds is also six years younger than Malinda Williams, which means that the actor playing her big brother in the movie is actually younger than her in real life and not by a small amount. 

Now, the question of whether or not it was obvious that she was too old to play that part (I think she played the part fine) is debatable. I’ve had people tell me that she was clearly too old to play that role, but to me, she fit in. It’s just crazy to see her as a child in a room full of children extras being old enough to be some of their actual mothers. 

The point is this: Black don’t crack y’all. Malinda Williams—who STILL looks young at 51—needs to bottle up her skincare regimen or something because she’s on that vampire list of Black folks who could be 20 or 90. Salute to Malinda Williams, young at heart and in her soul. And to The Wood, for being one of the GOAT Black movies of all time. Fight your mom, bro.

Panama Jackson theGrio.com

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest) but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said “Unknown” (Blackest).

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