What else did you two do to make sure that romantic bond would be believable?
Before I started, we all had to go to Chicago to meet the family and [Hampton’s son], and my jacket wasn’t good enough to bear the Chicago weather. Daniel said, “Just take mine.” So already, in our first meeting, I’m wrapped in his spirit, wrapped in something that’s his. And on a personal level, I was sharing things with Daniel and Daniel was sharing things with me, so we really learned how to trust each other. We knew what we were doing it for, that it was bigger than us.
Trust is an underrated part of movie chemistry. In a lot of ways, love is about having the other person’s back.
When you have that trust in somebody, you don’t have to be defensive or on guard, and that’s what I learned personally with Daniel. We went bowling once, and this white guy decided that he wanted to take a fry from my plate. I don’t know him at all, and he takes a fry from my plate! And before I could speak, Daniel and Ian [Duff, another cast member] snatched the fry from his hand and said, “What are you doing?” They all kind of gathered around me, and that was the first time I could say, “Oh wow, this is what it feels like when you don’t have to advocate for yourself.”
Coming from New York and navigating an industry that often overlooks women and Black women, I don’t want to be hard, I don’t want to advocate for myself — I want to lean more into my divine feminine, where I receive. So it was really nice to have them around me, and it was automatic! I didn’t have to look to them and be like, “So, y’all not gonna do nothing?”
Do roles like this one stick with you after shooting, or are you able to move on easily?
This one was particularly difficult. I don’t know if she’s left me and I really don’t want her to, because I feel I learned unconditional love in a way and how I want to navigate in the world and how I want to treat people. I left seeking freedom. Self-determination is something that the Black Panther Party spoke about, so when I left Cleveland [where the film was shot] in 2019, I made 2020 my freedom year — or, my “Free Dom” year.
I thought I was going to travel and do X, Y and Z, and I actually ended up being quarantined. But I started meditating so much, journaling more, getting to know myself, getting to know my triggers, getting to know why and if or where I was fearful in love and how I wanted to operate moving forward. And I realized freedom is all in the mind.