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Interview Blackfilm

What was the attraction to doing a Whit Stillman film?

Megalyn Echikunwoke: The attraction for me was the script, the material. After reading the script I was so inspired. I thought it was one of the funniest things I ever read. I felt that I understood the dialogue and his tone and his self of narrative. I connected with it and I loved the humor. I thought it was so funny. He does it in a specific style. That’s to me the draw. As an actor, you are always looking for something fresh and interesting and not ordinary. And also, one of the big things for me is that these characters are interesting and strong women characters and no one is writing for young women like this. Especially for black women. The character I play, Rose, was always intended to be black for Whit. I tend to play characters that aren’t supposed to black or written black. Rose is always Rose and she’s just a girl. She happened to be English, which I thought was fun and it very freeing to do an accent for that role. It really lends itself to that way of talking that he is known for.

Besides the accent, what separates Rose from the other girls?

ME: Rose is very principled and leads a stern way of life and also religious. That may come across in the movie and the script. She says things that are pretty telling about her. She’s conservative but also a free thinker like all of these girls are but they have a particular sense about the world; about what they like and what they think makes life worth living.

How was working with the other cast members?

ME: They were so lovely. I always like an environment where there’s lots of women and everyone’s different. All of us are very different and from different walks of life. It’s a testament to Whit that he likes interesting people and finds beauty in all types of people and not just one type of girl which you often find in movies where’s the brunette and there’s the blond. That’s boring. In addition to his writing, he creates really engaging female characters who are all very different and with Greta, it was great working with her because she varies in certain ways and it was interesting to watch her process. The other girls were also new to this so that was also refreshing to be with people who were looking at things from a fresh point of view. I loved all the girls.

Would this film be for the average audience?

ME: When watching this movie, you definitely know you are watching a Whit Stillman film. He has his own style unlike Woody Allen or one of those sort of directors. I don’t think it’s for everyone. I’m in the movie and I hope everyone loves it, but at the same time, I know that not everyone is going to. It can be jarring depending on energy you are used to. People who love film or love cinema and who really love comedy will get this. If you are a mainstream, fast food person, you may not like this if you go to the movies to watch things explode or women take off their clothes.

Not only are you on the big screen, but you also seen on the small screen in not only in House of Lies, but also on 90210. What’s it like going from working with Whit Stillman to working with Don Cheadle?

ME:I love it. I feel so lucky that I get these opportunities and people are responding to them. It’s not everyday where that kind of role comes on television and you get to work opposite Don Cheadle. He definitely made me look good and do this at the same time is just a coincidence that they are both happening at the same time. Every actress hopes to play a wide range of characters because not often you don’t. As I’m getting older and more mature I get to play these interesting roles. There are not a lot of good roles written for black women. It’s a testament to some good casting directors. Felicia Fasano, who cast House of Lies, is so visionary in her casting. The role of April wasn’t written for a black woman. She just believed in me.

What about your upcoming sci-fi series Beautiful People?

ME: Yes. That was another role that was color blind. That role was especially not written for a black woman. I had a number of white girlfriends go after that role. It’s nice to appreciated and seen as a good actor and not as a pretty black girl. Often times, we’re relegated to playing the good girlfriend or the sappy best friend or the daughter of the cop. This is refreshing and hopeful about the future.

Why is it we don’t see more of you on the big screen?

ME: Well, I think more than ever people are gravitating towards because that’s where the really great writing is. You have the House of Lies, Mad Men, everything on Showtime, HBO, and you have great actors wanting to do television shows. They want to do great stuff and great roles and there’s not a lot of that in film these days. You’re either in a film where things are blown up or in a superhero movie. For me, it’s about volume and there are not a lot of roles for black women and the pool is so small that you see the same women competing for the same spots. With Beautiful People, hopefully that will turn into a great show.

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