Photography by Christopher Sherman
Styling by Corey Ng
One would not normally expect an Oscar-winning director to be described as “chill,” but for Teyonah Parris, Barry Jenkins is just that. “He’s so...cool with it,” she gushes. “He’s real chill! And by ‘chill,’ I mean you feel very confident that he’s getting everything he wants, that [the film’s] a well-oiled machine, and that everyone is on the same page.”
The actress stars in Jenkins’s third feature film, If Beale Street Could Talk, based on the novel by James Baldwin, which takes place in 1970s Harlem. She describes her character, Ernestine Rivers, as a “firecracker [who] doesn’t take mess from no one [and] a very loving young woman.” It’s quite the ambitious project, given that today’s climate of remakes and adaptations can get things very, very wrong, but protocols like the one followed by Parris help ensure that the integrity of the story is kept intact.
How exactly? Well, by sticking to the script.
“Whatever freedom I felt, I would make sure it came from either Barry or Baldwin. I wasn’t trying to take words and make them my own. We were all very cognizant that we were dealing with a legend and we will honor and respect that. James Baldwin is not to be played with.”
Parris has come a long way since her early acting days on Mad Men, but her performance in Beale Street shows that she’s very much the same talented, methodical, and powerhouse actress.
Casting: Ian Monroe