“It’s a beautiful story of brotherhood, just a display of Black men expressing themselves healthily in a space that we don’t get the opportunity to see Black men be,” says One Night In Miami director Regina King of what inspired her to make Kemp Powers’ play her feature directorial debut. “We don’t get to see that in cinema that often and here was an opportunity that if I can’t act in it, I can still be a part of it,” the Oscar and multiple Emmy winner added of the tale of a pivotal sit-down between Malcolm X, Cassius Clay, NFL legend Jim Brown and Sam Cooke.
King was speaking during Deadline’s Contenders Film awards-season event, which comes a day after what would have been Cooke’s 90th birthday. She was joined by Powers, who penned the screenplay for the Amazon Studios film that debuted on the streamer January 15. Also on the panel were Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Adlis Hodge and Leslie Odom Jr, who played the magnetic Muslim minister, the Greatest, the Hall of Famer and the King of Soul, respectively.
One Night In Miami explores the events following a February 1964 fight nobody thought the future Muhammed Ali would win against Sonny Liston. The four friends and icons really did retire to a hotel in the segregated Florida metropolis to hang out. What was actually said, and what actually went down in that room, was Powers’ lifting-off point for a discourse that has dominated the American conversation since 1619 through the Civil War, Jim Crow, the civil rights movement and to today.
Odom revealed an advantage he had in part playing Cooke, who was mysteriously killed in a Los Angeles motel in December 1964.
“I was lucky unlike my brothers here,” the Hamilton vet says, laughing. “I’m sure if Malcolm had put out a mixtape it would have helped Kingsley a lot, or if Jim had made an album it might have helped Brother Aldis quite a bit. But I had so much music and I think the voice is like a fingerprint — you know, you learn so much about the psychology of who someone was. I learned so much about heart and soul of the man by crawling inside those recordings.”
Check out the panel video above.