Jodie Turner-Smith stars in Queen & Slim, a thrilling love story about an unlikely Black couple on the run after a routine traffic stop turns deadly when a police officer is fatally shot. Queen, portrayed by Turner-Smith, is a no nonsense lawyer before all-hell breaks loose. She and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) have to learn to work together in love in order to survive.
The film, written by Lena Waithe, is centered around the controversial issue of race relations in America, featuring scenes of protests and police brutality. But the movie is also a beautiful ode to blackness. The film is somewhat of a slow burn, taking moments to highlight black beauty in the middle of black pain and black struggle. Turner-Smith and Kaluuya’s dark skin are like their own characters, beautifully contrasting against clear blue skies and lush greenery. This was intentional, as director Melina Matsoukas sought to feature black skin in the best way possible.
“Belly is always one of my favorite references of all time, in terms of lighting and portraiture of black people and black skin and also the culture and the community,” Matsoukas told The Hollywood Reporter in a Nov. 13 interview.
That’s why Turner-Smith shines in more way than one. The British-born actor’s long legs, flawless skin, and dazzling smile hook you from beginning to end. In an October 2019 interview with Essence, Turner-Smith admitted her previous credit as a lead in a series adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s Nightflyers set her up to move confidently as a black woman in Hollywood.
“The fact that I was cast in a show to play a female lead and I’m the dark-skinned Black woman with short hair, it’s so incredible,” she said of Nightflyers. “The part was a confidence boost as well. It just gave me a little bit of wind beneath my wings to really go and make this my own.”
Now, the model-turned-actress is taking over the big screen, but not without a few worries, feeling there was just so much she wanted to get right. “It was terrifying, because everyone involved was so magnificent and talented,” she told the New York Post on Nov. 25. “Obviously, I was a big fan of Daniel’s. And being that it was Lena [Waithe’s] first feature that she’d written a screenplay for and Melina [Matsoukas’] first feature that she was directing … I knew there was a lot at stake. Every step of the way was fraught with nerves.” Regardless, sis slays on screen, commanding her own presence alongside Kaluuya.
“It was really special to be able to play a woman as complex and fully formed, and intriguing and interesting as Queen,” she said to The Hollywood Reporter on Nov. 25. “Just as a black woman, much of who Queen is, I think was an experience relatable to any black woman.”
“I think that’s why it was something that was so popular when we all read it. All of us in the community were like, ‘Wow, this woman is so interesting and amazing.’ … I think there’s a common thread in that experience, in the struggle, in the desire to be excellent and to … hide your pain and things like that,” she added.
Queen & Slim truly is visual poetry to the Black experience in America. The suspenseful drama hits theaters Nov. 27.