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Jurnee Smollett’s ‘warrior spirit’

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Jurnee Smollet is interviewed by Robert W. Welkos of the Los Angeles Times. The young actress talks about her role in “The Great Debaters”, her mother’s activism, the ‘traditional roles’ for young Black actresses and a surely infuriating moment at Miami International Airport. Here are a couple of snippets:

On the usual roles for young Black actresses:

Jurnee Smollett knew from the moment she read Robert Eisele’s script that the role of Samantha Booke embodied all the dramatic elements that young black actresses of this era crave but so seldom get to play.

“I’ve gotten so many scripts where if you’re not on the sideline cheering your boyfriend on, you’re fighting with him about cheating on you or you’re just set dressing,” Smollett said.

“I always told my representatives, ‘Look, I come from the ‘School of Janet’ ‘ – that’s my mom – she raised me to know that I’m more than just set dressing. So, getting a script like this is rare.”

Her character inspiration:

Booke’s character was inspired by Henrietta Bell, Class of 1934, who was the debate team’s first female member.

Smollett said she had tried to imagine how to play the role, but it wasn’t until Washington put her in touch with Bell, now 96, that she found the way. The two women’s budding friendship allowed the actress to alter in some ways her interpretation of the character.

“There were a number of things about her I ended up making adjustments for. It was more of a quiet-storm type of thing,” Smollett said. “From the beginning, I knew she was a girl from an affluent background, or as affluent as you could be back then for a ‘colored’ girl, (but) I was pleasantly surprised how similar the character I was building was to her.”

An unfortunate and uncomfortable incident of assumptions:

Earlier this month, while Smollett and one of her co-stars, Nate Parker, were standing in the Miami airport waiting to board a flight, an airline employee told them that they shouldn’t be in the line for first-class passengers.

“The lady stops both of us and says, ‘No, no, no, coach is that way,’ ” Parker recalled. “Jurnee gets beet-red and says, ‘We are first-class, thank you very much.’ ” Parker said he later wrote a letter of complaint to the airline.

 Read more of the interview on Knox News

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Written by Symphony

December 29, 2007 at 9:32 pm

2 Responses

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  1. The worker from the Miami Airport said that?! That’s a slap in the face because I’m from Miami, Florida myself. I really hope you got a reply because that is a shame.

    I adored the movie and can’t wait to see more of Jurnee. Beautiful young lady with a lot of talent.

    J. Cunningham

    May 24, 2008 at 9:00 am

  2. what the fuck? how somseone’s gonna tell her where coach is at?

    lol @ the “school of janet”! i love it!

    she’s right about the roles of black females in hollywood.

    she blogged (on myspace) about an upcoming project that shit is excited about. so let’s see what will happen.

    Blu

    May 28, 2008 at 9:48 pm


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