What can you tell us about your role in ya drama The Hate U Give?

Starr is a girl grow­ing up in a low-in­come black neigh­bour­hood, watch­ing Fresh Prince with her friends, go­ing to a white pri­vate school across town, so con­stantly nav­i­gat­ing the code-switch of be­ing in those black and white spa­ces, and how she fits into each one. Then when her best friend is shot and killed by po­lice in front of her af­ter a rou­tine traf­fic stop, it gal­vanises a de­ci­sion she has to make, in terms of whether or not she should speak up and use her voice. She has to make the de­ci­sion to stand up to bias and dis­crim­i­na­tion.

How was your au­di­tion?

It was a kind of back­wards process. I was at­tached to the project be­fore the book it is based on was even pub­lished. I’d got­ten a copy of the man­u­script through a friend of mine who is a Young Adult au­thor. It was un­fin­ished — there were still ty­pos in it! — but the heart and essence of it cap­tured me im­me­di­ately. I had never felt so ac­cu­rately rep­re­sented. I ended up get­ting at­tached to it as a way to help the process of pro­duc­tion. Then about a year later, when the book had be­come an amaz­ing suc­cess, they asked me to come in and re-au­di­tion. It went fan­tas­ti­cally and it was re­con­firmed I was the one for the job!

What was your first act­ing role?

The first thing I ever did was a com­mer­cial for a doll called Fivesies. I don’t think they were very suc­cess­ful. It was five dolls that were con­nected to­gether. In the com­mer­cial there’s a blurry fig­ure of me rock­ing the dolls back and forth.

Do you have a dream di­rec­tor, or project?

I’d want to work with Ryan Coogler. Steve Mcqueen would be amaz­ing. Some­thing I’d love to do is a Kill Bill movie — when I was a kid, I al­ways felt like I was the daugh­ter of [Vivica A. Fox’s char­ac­ter] Cop­per­head.

Who would play you in the film of your life?

I would as­sume me, right? [laughs] There’s this amaz­ing lit­tle girl named Lidya Jewett who played the younger ver­sion of me in The Dark­est Minds. She’s filled with tal­ent.

Do you have a favourite film?

Prob­a­bly Do The Right Thing.

Who would win in a fight — a horse sized duck, or one hun­dred duck-sized horses?

I think a hun­dred duck-sized horses. I think the tor­ren­tial wave would over­whelm the duck.


Above: The Hate U Give. Here: The Dark­est Minds

Amandla Stenberg, pho­tographed ex­clu­sively for Em­pire in Los An­ge­les on 7 June 2018.

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