By Bill Vaughan
After six long years of trials and tribulations, “The Woman King” has arrived on the big screen. The fact-inspired film from Sony Pictures tells the story of Agojie, the all-female unit of warriors who protected the African kingdom of Dahomey in the 1800s with skills and a fierceness unlike anything the world has ever seen.
The movie follows the emotionally epic journey of General Nanisca (Oscar winner Viola Davis) as she trains the next generation of recruits and readies them for battle against an enemy determined to destroy their way of life.
The fierce cast includes Thuso Mbedu (“The Underground Railroad”), Lashana Lynch (“No Time To Die”), Sheila Atim (“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness”), Adrienne Warren (Tony winner for “Tina: The Musical”), Jayme Lawson (“The Batman”), Angelique Kidjo and John Boyega as King Ghezo.
Tasty Clips took to the red carpet of the film’s premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival to find just how much some principals knew about this story before joining the production.
“I’m from Africa,” answered Siv Ngesi who plays the king’s chief counsel Migan. “We get drilled about our history. We knew about it growing up, but now being an actor in this film, I learned more and more. It’s an incredible story every single young kid should be in the cinema learning.”
“The first knowledge I had was with ‘Black Panther’ like so many of us who saw Ryan Coogler’s film,” said veteran editor Terilyn A. Shropshire, whose credits include “Eve’s Bayou,” “Love & Basketball” and “The Secret Life of Bees.”
“When [director] Gina [Prince-Bythewood] called me and said this was our next movie, I immediately started Googling and doing all that kind of research. It was just amazing that this was a story, like so many of our stories, that we just don’t know about and we learn about in the most extraordinary way.”
As for her approach to the film, Shropshire always says everything prepares her for what’s next.
“I had done ‘The Old Guard’ with Gina and we always try to find the humanity within everything we do,” she said. “I think a lot of people coming to this film think they’re coming to see an action film. I wanted to give all the badassness of these women and show how powerful they were, but also how human. They were women and they had the same struggles that we still have.”
For the film’s composer Terence Blanchard (who also worked on two other festival premieres (“Louis Armstrong’s Black and Blues” and Tyler Perry’s “A Jazzman’s Tale”) it was really about trying to pay homage to these women while bringing the West African influence into the music.
“We have the percussion, we have kalimba and some of those other things,” he said. “But what I started to really get into was some of the vocal chants that they did. The war chants from the women. It made me think well maybe we should have voice on the score.
So, we have Dianne Reeves, who came in an did some vocalizations on certain portions of the emotional part of the score and it worked really well.”
Like most people, Blanchard didn’t know about the story and that the legend of the Amazons really came from Agojie.
“To learn that and to see the power of it is something that really makes me feel proud,” he added. “I am happy to be part of this crew that’s going to expose this story to the world, because when you look at this film, the way it looks, it takes everything that we’ve seen about our culture and flips it on its head. It’s beautiful. It’s gorgeous. “It’s majestic.”
“The Woman King” opens Sept. 16 at a theater near you.
CLIPPETTES: Femme It Forward presents Serenade with Ty Dolla $ign, Dvsn, Jacquees, Arin Ray, and Tone Stith at the YouTube Theater Sept. 16; as Jhene Aiko plays the Greek Theatre; and Kendrick Lamar’s The Big Steppers Tour with Baby Keem and Tanna Leon continues for two more nights at Crypto.Com Arena …
The Love N’ Soul Show featuring The Temprees and The Delfonics is at Catch One Sept. 17; while David Spade brings his sardonic humor to the Theatre at Ace Hotel …
Sept. 18 is Reggae Night at the Hollywood Bowl with UB40, The Original Wailers featuring Al Anderson, Maxi Priest and Big Mountain. Also that evening, singer/songwriter and flautist Melanie Charles performs at Lodge Room and “Weird Al” Yankovic is at the Kavli Theatre …
Dave Matthews Band sets up at the Hollywood Bowl for two nights beginning Sept. 19 …
Jack Harlow’s Come Home The Kids Miss Your Tour with City Girls hits The Forum on Sept. 20; as The War & Treaty bring their soulful repertoire to the Kavli Theatre …
Sept. 21 is Sounds of the Caribbean Night at the Hollywood Bowl with Chucho Valdes, Willie Colon and Cimafunk; while Eric Gales is at The Coach House; and Michael Wolff is at Mr. Musichead …
“Mr. Worldwide” himself Pitbull has a tour stop with Sean Paul at the Fivepoint Amphitheatre on Sept. 22; as Bonnie Raitt is at the Santa Barbara Bowl and Musiq Soulchild croons at The Novo.
TC ON TV: Sept. 16 – “Official Competition” (AMC+): Penelope Cruz, Antonio Banderas and Oscar Martinez star in this Spanish comedy about a group of pros attempting to create an iconic movie. “Pop Profiles” (Ovation): Bruno Mars, Selina Gomez “Secret Celebrity Renovation” (CBS): Superbowl LVI champion Aaron Donald returns home to Pittsburgh to tackle the biggest surprise of the season, by turning his childhood home into the ultimate clubhouse for his father, including a major upgrade to the home gym. “Great Performances” (PBS): “Black Lucy and The Bard” explores Shakespeare’s love life through the perspective of the “Dark Lady” in this work from Nashville Ballet based on poetry by Caroline Randall Williams and featuring an original score by Grammy winner Rhiannon Giddens. “Beyond The Canvas” (PBS): “Art, Black Women Lead” with Nikole Hannah-Jones, Regina King and Roxanne Gay.
Sept. 18 – “Celebrity Family Feud” (ABC): NFL players Najee Harris, Christian Kirk, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Stefon Diggs and Grady Jarrett vs. their moms. “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” (Bravo): “Reunion, Part 2” “$100,000 Pyramid” (ABC): Nicole Byer vs. Jermaine Fowler
Sept. 19 – “9-1-1” (Fox): The Angela Bassett-led dramatic series returns for a sixth season. “Dancing With The Stars: Live” (Disney+): Tyra Banks co-hosts with Alfonso Ribeiro as the show moves to the streaming services. Wayne Brady looks like a lock for the finals of this year’s celebs. “The Neighborhood” (CBS): A community-wide power outage hits on the fifth season premiere of the sitcom starring Cedric The Entertainer and Tichina Arnold. “The Voice” (NBC): Camila Cabello and Gwen Stefani join John Legend and Blake Shelton for Season 22. “Quantum Leap” (NBC): Ernie Hudson is a regular in this reboot with Raymond Lee making the jumps.
Sept. 20 – “Reboot” (Hulu): Forces the dysfunctional cast (including Keegan-Michael Key and Johnny Knoxville) of a family sitcom back together. Now they must deal with their unresolved issues in today’s fast-changing world.
Sept. 21 – “Andor” (Disney+): This prequel series to “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story dives into the past of Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) kicking off with a three-episode premiere. “Meet Cute” (Peacock): Pete Davidson and Kaley Cuoco lead this time-travel romantic comedy film. “Abbott Elementary” (ABC): Congrats to Emmy winners Quinta Brunson and Sheryl Lee Ralph as the hit sitcom returns for a second season. “The Amazing Race” (CBS): For the first time, the series begins outside of the U.S. in Munich Germany and has eliminated “Non-Elimination Legs” of the competition. Among the teams are an engaged couple from Marina Del Ray, ballroom dancers from L.A., and former Rams cheerleaders. “No-Recipe Road Trip with The Try Guys” (Food): “Atlanta: Vegan Burgers and Thai Noodles”
Sept. 22 – “Karma’s World” (Netflix): The Chris “Ludacris” Bridges animated children’s series returns for a fourth season with voices by Danielle Brooks, Dascha Polanco, Dawnn Lewis and Tiffany Haddish. “Law & Order: Organized Crime” (NBC): The most recent spin-off of the venerable franchise kicks off a first-ever premiere night of crossovers with sister series “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and “Law & Order.” “Variety’s Power of Women: Changemakers” (Lifetime): This year’s honorees include Queen Latifah, Venus Williams, Camila Cabello, Drew Barrymore, Kim Cattrall and Amanda Seyfried.
END QUOTE: “Everything comes from one thing. Everything comes from the spirit. Jazz would not exist had it not been for gospel music, the blues would not exist had it not been for spiritual blues, which goes back to slave songs our forefathers were singing while they were out in the field. So, it’s all one continuous growth from one group of people. Of course, jazz now is played by various cultures and colors around the world. But the stimulus is One Voice.” – Jazz composer and keyboardist RAMSEY LEWIS [RIP]
As featured in the Los Angeles Wave and Independent, Tasty Clips is one of the leading entertainment columns in the nation, serving nearly one million weekly readers. Bill Vaughan may be reached at email@example.com, via Twitter @tastyclips, or Instagram @tasty_clips.