Two-time Oscar winner Regina King, whose latest acclaimed effort in front of the camera found her starring in HBO’s 2019 Watchmen adaptation, is making her debut behind the camera with One Night in Miami, a new feature adapted from Kemp Powers’ Olivier-nominated stage play of the same name. Cameras rolled on King’s production in New Orleans on Tuesday, with Leslie Odom, Jr. (Hamilton) as Sam Cooke, Aldis Hodge (Clemency) as Jim Brown, Kingsley Ben-Adir (The OA) as Malcolm X and Eli Goree (Riverdale) as Cassius Clay, aka Muhammad Ali.
It’s Goree’s character around whom the story of One Night in Miami revolves, as the film’s synopsis explains:
Set on the night of Feb. 25, 1964, One Night in Miami follows a young, brash Cassius Clay as he emerges from the Miami Beach Convention Center the new Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World. Against all odds, he defeated Sonny Liston and shocked the sports world. While crowds of people swarm Miami Beach to celebrate the match, Clay—unable to stay on the island because of Jim Crow-era segregation laws—spends the evening at the Hampton House Motel in Miami’s African American Overtown neighborhood celebrating with three of his closest friends: Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown. During this historic evening, these icons, who each were the very representation of the Pre-Black Power Movement and felt the social pressure their cross-over celebrity brought, shared their thoughts with each other about their responsibilities as influencers, standing up, defending their rights, and moving the country forward to equality and empowerment for all black people. The next morning, the four men emerge determined to define a new world for themselves and their community.
Did this landmark conversation actually happen? Yes and no—though the four friends did meet in real life, Powers’ play imagines what might have been, rather than claiming to depict the discussion that truly took place, exploring “this pivotal night, the dynamic relationship between these four men, and how their friendship, successes and shared struggles fueled their paths to becoming the civil rights icons they are today,” per a press release.
”One Night in Miami is a love letter to black manhood that powerfully explores themes of race, identity and friendship,” says King in a statement. “Each of them has contributed so much to culture and history. We’re so excited to have Kingsley, Eli, Aldis and Leslie in the lead roles showing a different side of these iconic men.”
King will also executive produce the film alongside Powers, who adapts his acclaimed stage play for the screen. Producers include Jess Wu Calder and Keith Calder of Snoot Entertainment (Blindspotting, Anomalisa), and Jody Klein of ABKCO (The Durrells in Corfu, The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus).