Regina King Defends Casting a British Actor to Portray Malcolm X in 'One Night in Miami'

Actress Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk) has turned to directing, making her feature debut with One Night in Miami. The story revolves around public figures Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown, having a conversation about the civil unrest in 1960s America.

Based on a play by Kemp Powers, who also wrote the screenplay, it's a fictionalized account of what could have happened during this sit-down. Malcom X is played by British actor Kingsley Ben-Adir (Peaky Blinders), a casting choice that King was asked about during a recent BAFTA Masterclass.

When casting the roles, King sought out the best actors for the parts, keeping nationality out of the decision-making. King explains during the BAFTA talk, "If I was moved by a performance, I really don’t care where a person’s from," reports Deadline. 

It sounds like King got to know Kingsley on a deeper level, that went beyond performing, saying, “After Kingsley’s first audition, I wanted to give him some notes. I wanted to just talk to him and get to know him and get to know what his relationship was to Malcolm. He said all the things that I needed to hear him say and I think it’s unfortunate that this is where we are.”

In addition to Ben-Adir, King cast Canadian actor Eli Goree (Riverdale) as Muhammad Ali.

She elaborated on the actors' ability to understand the issues discussed in the movie, saying, "Kingsley was the best actor for that role and Eli was the best actor for that role. Sure, neither one of them are American. But can they relate to the experience and the pain felt by a Black person for being disregarded just because of the color of your skin? Absolutely, they can. Can they take it upon themselves to make sure they educate themselves on the ways it’s specific to America in the history of how Black Americans had built this country, it was built on the bodies of Black Americans? They can definitely educate themselves on that and they did. I wouldn’t change my choices for anyone.”

And what did these legendary men (possibly) talk about that one night? Here's a peek at the trailer:

One Night in Miami is currently available for streaming over at Amazon Prime.

Are you keen to see more of Regina King as a director?