Amandla Stenberg has come a long way since stealing our hearts as baby Rue in The Hunger Games. The 20-year-old’s star power has since been cemented in films like The Darkest Minds. The actor even made an appearance in Beyoncé’s music video for ‘Lemonade’ alongside Zendaya. Can we be besties already?! Amandla’s latest film, The Hate U Give, is gonna be your summer obsession – and we got all the deets.
What interested you in the role of Starr Carter?
I initially heard about this amazing book by Angie Thomas from a mutual friend. My friend had received a copy of the manuscript before it was on the best-seller list – actually before it was even published – and had read it and told me how good it was. At the time, there was a lot of buzz about it because it’s obviously a powerful and important story. I received an early copy of the manuscript and then I heard around the same time that the film was being made and that they were looking for someone to play Starr, so I chased the part really hard. I was basically attached from the first stages of production. Then, about a year after, the producers asked me to come in and audition officially for the part to reaffirm that I was the right person to play Starr.
Do you relate to Starr’s life at all?
I do. I felt I was able to reference a lot of my own life when it came to the themes in the book and in the script, because I had the experience of growing up in LA in a black community and going to a white private school. It made me think about race at a young age. I had never seen anything in a script that reflected my own experience so accurately.
What was it like working with the cast?
I loved working with everyone! I’m a huge fan of Regina Hall, who plays my mother, and Issa Rae – obviously it was black girl magic! Not only was there a completely professional environment but also they were supportive and had my back. They filled up my whole heart. Russell Hornsby, who plays my father, became a parental figure to me, and would often give me guidance. Working with Common, who plays my uncle, was also great. There were a lot of laughs when he was around! He cracked me up and had so much energy when we got together. It was amazing.
You’ve become a role model and activist. What issues do you feel are important as a young woman?
I am always thinking about how I can apply my activism to the world. I know that sounds clichéd, but there are so many problems right now that we are dealing with, it can all seem overwhelming. We can try to act on every single thing, but what is really powerful right now is that we’re living in a time in which people are becoming aware and more politically engaged, and that is becoming the norm as opposed to activists being the outliers.
What advice do you have for young people?
I urge people to take the time to see how they’re functioning on an interpersonal basis, how they interact with others and care for them. What I mean is that I would like people to ask themselves: how are they supporting the black men and women in their life? How are they supporting the poor people in their life? How are they being inclusive of all the black people in their life, even the old people and the young people? I think it’s a really important time to focus on community in general and in our interpersonal relationships to look at how we affect each other on a microscopic scale. It’s important to be active in the community, to be kind and compassionate on a daily basis.
Who would you say are your role models?
Definitely my biggest role model would be my mum. She is so smart, spiritual and very grounded. I love my sisters, and now I have a bunch of work sisters as well. Alicia Keys has become a really close friend of mine and so has Janelle Monáe. They are incredible women who understand that life can be tough [in Hollywood] and they offer their support, having already gone through everything I am going through now themselves.
“Definitely my biggest role model would be my mum.”