Practicing all morning to pronounce her wonderful name Amandla (Uh-Mand-La), I got it right the first time upon meeting the genuine above her years quality person, Amandla Stenberg. Amandla stands out in whatever project she chooses from the cool teen weepie Everything, Everything (2017) or Lemonade with Beyonce or alongside friend Oprah Winfrey standing for good cause. Dynamic in person, bright, intelligent and lovely to talk with. It may have been a quick interview discussing new dystopian supernatural adventure film The Darkest Minds, but still absolutely made my week. She is unique.
Did you bring your violin with you to Australia?
AS – (laughs) No I didn’t, I kind of wish I had now. I did think about it briefly, I did take it on The Darkest Minds set. Clancy, played by Patty (Patrick Gibson), plays guitar. He would play as I played violin jamming together then Harris (Dickinson) jumped in. We had a lot of fun time jam sessions.
Your name is beautiful, do you have a middle name?
AS – Yes I do, it’s Brailsford, my mothers last name.
Would Ruby be one of your most mature roles to date?
AS – Yes, I think in terms of the amount of responsibility that she has with the strength she gains by the end. Definitely richer than previous roles.
How much training did you go through in preparation?
AS – Ruby doesn’t have tremendous physical activity so maybe around a week of training. It’s all about her stare, her blue steel mind control stare (laughs). I practiced that more than anything physical. Actually first day of rehearsal, Harris and I had barely gotten to know each other yet, we were strapped together with faces maybe about this far apart (motions approximately 30cm with hands), then sent whizzing through the air (laughs), training in harnesses mostly.
How was your audition process for Jennifer Yuh Nelson (director)?
AS – Producers were already interested in me because of some work I had already done around speaking up and out, that’s kind of the essence of Ruby so meetng was just to discuss project while pitching myself for the role. Then it was offered to me, it felt amazing. I was lucky and I’ll never forget the experience making it.
Gwendoline Christie is fantastic, how was working with her?
AS – Awesome she’s so cool, I love her. At 6ft5 or whatever, she’s opposite to me, I’m very short (laughs). She is a powerhouse of a woman, so hilarious, kind and really knows how to command a set which was really interesting to observe.
Is acting or modelling a harder job for you?
AS – Probably acting for sure, modelling can be challenging too.
Have you changed much as an actor since Hunger Games?
AS – Hopefully a lot . That’s the goal to always be changing, growing, getting better. I’m certainly understanding how to do character work, more focus on portraying specific characters that are much different than me.
As an advocate for many important causes, what’s important to you?
AS – Most important things to me kind of guide how I go about my careers: empowerment of black youth, humanisation of black people…especially in United States with so much historical trauma alongside problems such as police brutality and inequity.
What’s next, will you make a movie in Australia?
AS – (laughs) Of course I would love to, had a great time here so far. Not quite sure what’s next for me, I’m promoting movie The Hate U Give, then have potential roles in the future without settling on yet what I think is right for me. But Shane, I definitely want to direct!
Wonderful news, you’re an extraordinary talent, maybe you write and direct.
AS – Thank you, yes that’s the plan, write and direct.
THE DARKEST MINDS (Rated M – 104 min)
IN CINEMAS NOW
Shane A. BassettSydney Unleashed is one of Australia’s premier entertainment publications exploring the latest in lifestyle trends. From Sydney’s finest restaurants, cafes and bars to the hottest in gadgets, products, and home entertainment, Sydney Unleashed is your one-stop lifestyle platform.