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Lashana Lynch Challenges the ‘Strong Black Woman’ Cliché, Softly


When Lashana Lynch learned that the filmmaker Gina Prince-Bythewood desired to talk over with her a couple of project, she was able to say yes, whatever it was.

She had been in love with Prince-Bythewood’s work ever since “Love & Basketball,” her feature film directorial debut, Lynch, 35, said in a video interview from London last month. “I’d work together with her any day.”

The project, it turned out, was “The Woman King,” a historical drama set in 1823 about a military of female soldiers in West Africa. Prince-Bythewood had written the role of Izogie — a loyal warrior to the battalion’s leader, played by Viola Davis, and a mentor to a would-be fighter (Thuso Mbedu) — with Lynch in mind.

“Coming from a Black female director, that made me so emotional because I believed, ‘Wow, she’s really considered me as a human being,’” said Lynch, an actress known for her performances within the James Bond movie “No Tie to Die” and more recently as Captain Marvel in “Doctor Strange within the Multiverse of Madness.” “She’s considered who I’m, what I’ve done, but additionally things that I haven’t shown the world yet.’”

As shooting on “The Woman King” progressed, the role grew as Lynch shared ideas about Izogie’s back story with Prince-Bythewood, who incorporated a few of them into the script.

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“We just knew her,” Lynch said. “She was birthed on her own, which is sort of Izogie of her, actually. She showed us who she was, and we listened.”

Lynch answered three questions on Izogie’s driving forces. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

How do you’re thinking that the character of Izogie challenges gender norms?

As soon as I got the role, I believed, “OK, here we go.” A girl in an all-female army, very, very physically strong, mentally strong — we at the moment are going into what, within the mistaken hands, can be the strong Black woman trope that I’m all the time on the hunt to dismantle. And it is a really wonderful means of doing that, softly.

Izogie is tasked with showing young women how their vulnerability and what they arrive with organically could be their superpower. For me as an actor characterizing Izogie, I believed, “I would like her masculine and female energy to be equally as powerful and equally as seen.” I feel that’s what we did between me and Gina. We allowed her to only be, and to not take into consideration who Izogie can be in comparison with, or if she can be considered the really strong, physically built, masculine woman in the military.

She would just be a lady in all her glory, which she deserves to be. I just wanted her to live.

What do you see because the source of her power?

We as human beings have such an interesting way of handling trauma through humor. It’s a very interesting tell whenever you meet someone, they usually’ve been through something, and once they talk about it, they smile or they laugh or they brush it off and move on.

I feel it’s such an incredibly beautiful, protective way of being that Izogie, doing that within the powerful position that she’s in, really reminds us as audience members that, “Oh yeah, I’m human. I’m just going concerning the world in the way in which that I do know tips on how to protect myself.” She teaches us to be OK to not be OK.

The vast majority of the movie you’re thinking that that she’s in such control, which, in a way, she is. But really there’s such vulnerability there, and fear and angst and essentially trauma that she’s working through. She has an organic way of existing authentically, which could be scary to do, but she doesn’t do it in a way that seems out of reach for us mere mortals watching the screen considering, “I would like to aspire to do this.”

She’s also not a superhero. She’s a lady going about her every day life, doing the very best she will be able to in probably the most creative way that she will be able to. I really like superheroes, they usually serve their purpose. But there’s nothing like an actual human being having natural superpowers just by being born and using them in an amazing way.

Why should people watch “The Woman King”?

I’d say that “The Woman King” is a movie that folks from all walks of life have been waiting for but just didn’t anticipate the package through which it will come.

Now we now have the package. We are able to appreciate physical motion. We are able to appreciate actors going 100 with the stunts themselves. We are able to appreciate Black women existing because the humanized versions of themselves as a substitute of this uber-strong, uber-elevated, nonhuman version that’s unreal.

We also get to re-educate the world on why Black history is so vital to all sectors on this planet, without bashing anyone around the pinnacle with it. We are only presenting information in probably the most strong, beautiful, delicate, sometimes understated narrative that makes you are feeling good, but additionally makes you query what you’re doing for the world and the way you must exist here.

What footprint do you must leave on the planet? What’s your purpose? I’m hoping that some people have no less than began on the journey to finding that through watching this movie.

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