On Saturday, 15th February, SCHICK sat down with BATFA award winner, Daniel Kaluuya to discuss the 2019 drama/thriller, Queen & Slim. The film, directed by Melina Matsoukas (in her feature directorial debut) and written by Lena Waithe, has attracted a lot of buzz both in and out of the U.S. for its captivating plot. The film’s protagonists, Slim and Queen (played by Daniel and Jodie Turner-Smith) go on a first date which takes an unexpected turn when a policeman pulls them over for a minor traffic violation. When the situation escalates, Slim takes the officer’s gun and shoots him in self-defence. Now labelled cop killers in the media, Slim and Queen feel that they have no choice but to go on the run and evade the law.
Daniel Kaluuya discusses how he interpreted the role as a British actor and how he feels about the comparison of characters, Slim and Queen, to the infamous duo, Bonnie and Clyde.
On getting comfortable with African-American roles
“That’s our job as actors – to use who we are to show you who were not. So, I have to tap in and find parallels between me and the person I’m playing. It’s also important to be respectful and specific to the person and the culture I’m representing – whether it’s someone from Cleveland or someone from Zanzibar. It’s important to understand the humanity and find out the thing that I can translate and tap into. I have to think: If I watched it from Camden, would I understand [the experiences shared in the film]? If I was from Cleveland, especially [where the film is set], would I be able to resonate?”
Bonnie and Clyde committed crimes but for Slim and Queen, their skin was criminalised
– Daniel Kaluuya
You and Jodie’s characters in Queen & Slim have been compared to Bonnie and Clyde – but they were outlaws and you, in every sense, were not. How does that comparison make you feel?
“Well, I think it’s not accurate – that’s what it is. It’s a reductive way to describe it but I understand why people would go with that narrative – because [Slim and Queen] become a couple [on the run]. What our goal was was to introduce a new archetype in that space – especially from a Black perspective. Like you said, Bonnie and Clyde committed crimes but for Slim and Queen, their skin was criminalised – it’s why they were in that situation. So, it’s different.”
SCHICK also took the opportunity to talk with Queen & Slim director, Melina Matsoukas – on public reaction to the critically-acclaimed film and the importance of telling this timely story.
I had never seen such a reaction caused by a film – sometimes more of a reaction than people actually being killed in the street
– Melina Matsoukas
Do you think Queen & Slim would have been different if it was written and directed by men?
“Absolutely. I think any story is going to be affected by its creators because it’s told through their lens and through their pen, so there’s going to be a huge difference. [For Queen & Slim] I couldn’t tell you exactly how, though! And I also think it would be different if it was another black woman; this story is very much a representation of who I am, my instincts, influences, experiences, as well as Lena’s and Daniel’s and Jodie’s. We are the creators of this narrative and because of that, it’s always going to reflect who we are as people.”
Did anything surprise you about the reaction to the film?
“Yeah! I think what surprised me most was how deeply it resonated with audiences – how much conversation it caused both on and offline. I had never seen such a reaction caused by a film – sometimes more of a reaction than people actually being killed in the street, you know? And this came just from representation on screen. I think that speaks to how deeply it hit and how much people connect to and see themselves in this story.”