Taraji P Henson shines in a biopic on overcoming racial prejudices
The Best of Enemies tells a story that seems way too weird to be true – a racist Ku Klux Klan member becomes a civil-rights activist, all thanks to the influence of a black woman fighting for school desegregation in the USA.
If it sounds too much like Green Book, another drama based on a true story that had a racist overcoming his prejudices, it’s really not, says Taraji P Henson who plays Ann Atwater.
THE EMPIRE CONNECTION
Empire producer Danny Strong gave leading lady Taraji the script for The Best of Enemies back in 2014 when they were shooting the Empire pilot. She was keen to star in it but the timing didn’t work out.
“Then [Donald Trump] was elected and the temperature of the country changed. I called Danny, and I was, like, ‘You know we gotta make this movie and we gotta make it now?’,” she told Blackfilm. com.
When she read the script, Taraji thought it was fiction. “I mean, I just never heard of such a thing, a Klan member denouncing the Klan and then becoming a civil-rights activist. I’d never heard or seen anything like that in cinema and I just thought, ‘Wow, this is a true story, this could change things’.” The film is based on the non-fiction book The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South by Osha Gray Davidson.
Unlike Green Book, Taraji says, in this movie it’s not CP Ellis, the Klan member (played by Sam Rockwell), who saves the day.
“To me, it’s Ann Atwater’s story. It’s actually a story about friendship but it’s [through] her lens”.
Ann, who died in 2016, was a single mother who quit her job as a domestic worker to join the civil-rights movement in the 1960s.
Ann, says Taraji, got CP to change his ways after she resolved to follow her faith.
“God’s love is unconditional. Yu’ve gotta love like Jesus did: unconditionally. Love is the search for understanding. She had to fall back [on those lessons] and really look at this man and try to understand him. As hateful as he was, all he wanted was love. Who came to rescue him? A black woman.”
The Best of Enemies is now in cinemas.