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Regina King Says Lance Reddick Was the Only Actor She Wanted Playing Activist Wesley Holder in ‘Shirley’

For “Shirley” star Regina King, the late Lance Reddick was the “first and only” actor she reached out to to play Shirley Chisholm’s campaign manager and chief aide Wesley McDonald “Mac” Holder.

The Oscar-winning actress, director and producer opened up about assembling her star-studded main cast in Terrence Howard and Lucas Hedges, and how “Shirley” writer-director John Ridley convinced King’s real-life sister Reina King, who coproduced the Netflix film, to act alongside Regina as Chisholm’s sister Muriel St. Hill.

“One thing that Shirley did was recognize the potential in other people,” Regina King said. “Recognizing how other people fit in the puzzle to make the campaign move forward, and I would say there was a bit of that that took place with my sister and I putting the band together.”

The King sisters have been on a 15-year journey to tell the story of Shirley Chisholm, the country’s first Black congresswoman and the first Black American to make a serious run for President of the United States.

Shirley Chisholm (Getty Images)
Shirley Chisholm (Getty Images)

“Life started happening and [the cast and crew’s] stars started rising, and my star started rising,” King said. “Other things came up, and ‘Shirley’ kind of lied dormant for a bit. Then Reina and I picked it back up.”

Their goal to bring Chisholm’s campaign run to cinematic life was motivated in part due to people’s lack of awareness of who Chisholm was and the impact she made.

“We weren’t sure about how we were going to tell it,” King explained. “We didn’t have any writers. We just knew too many people that when we mention her name, don’t know. Never heard of her – and Chisholm is such a memorable last name.”

However, the pieces started to fall into place when King enlisted Ridley. King presented the opportunity to Ridley while the two were working his “American Crime” series — a collaboration that netted King two of her four Emmys.

John Ridley and Regina King on the set of "Shirley" (Netflix)
John Ridley and Regina King on the set of “Shirley” (Netflix)

“I kind of cornered him in between two trailers during the lunch break,” King recalled. “I was like, ‘John, what do you think about Shirley Chisholm?’ John is a historian, and he expressed respect for her and then he kind of did a shocked, ‘Me?!’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, you,’ and then it just went from there … It became myself, Reina and John really digging in.”

With Ridley penning the script and directing, next came deciding who would play the influential real-life politicians. Reddick was King’s first and only pick for Chisholm’s right-hand man.

“Lance was the first and only person I reached out to play Mac Holder, because of Lance’s presence,” King said. “I already had a relationship with him, I’d already worked with Lance. So I know the professional that he is, and I had hoped that he’d be available or would even be interested, and he was. We talked about Arthur [Hardwick Jr.], who Arthur should be, and we wanted someone who has that swag, but also that stature – that can be quiet and play the nuanced moment, but also can be big when needed to be big.”

Terrence Howard as Arthur Hardwick Jr. and Lucas Hedges as Robert Gottlieb in Netflix's "Shirley" (Netflix)
Terrence Howard as Arthur Hardwick Jr. and Lucas Hedges as Robert Gottlieb in Netflix’s “Shirley” (Netflix)

She continued, highlighting bringing on Howard and Hedges: “I was like, ‘Well, what about Terrence Howard?’ Terrence and I have known each other for years and have never worked together, and I reached out to him and he was like, ‘I’m here.’ Robert Gottlieb’s character played by Lucas Hedges. Lucas was the only person that we reached out to. Every time I’ve seen Lucas, he’s a chameleon, first of all, and when you read Shirley’s book [‘Unbossed and Unboxed’], when she talks about Robert Gottlieb, what he was when she first met him and how he kind of showed when she called him to lead the youth campaign, I just felt Lucas. Low and behold, Lucas said yes. It was kind of like what Shirley did putting together her campaign.”

As for Reina, initially she was never slated to star in the role as Muriel, but Ridley suggested she take the part.

Reina King as Muriel St. Hill in Netflix's "Shirley" (Netflix)
Reina King as Muriel St. Hill in Netflix’s “Shirley” (Netflix)

“We were going to cast that role, then John asked Reina without me knowing,” King explained. “‘You know, would you?’ What do you think about playing Muriel,’ and she said no. Then she thought about it, and then she asked me. I was kind of like, ‘Well, what do you think?’ As a producer – we’re both producers – but I’m focusing on playing Shirley, embodying Shirley, and Reina is boots on the ground getting it done on the ground. And I’m like, ‘Are you going to still be able to be the producer and do that?’ And she was like, ‘Absolutely.’ She understood that the film needed it.”

King said it was always the idea for her to play Shirley.

“I think, I also felt, maybe never said it out loud … I think my physicality, being a tiny woman, was similar,” King said. “I think I’ve always possessed that. Probably recognizing, seeing that, in her feeling that if I was going to play someone, if I was going to embody someone, if I was going to embody a real life person, I wanted it to be someone powerful.”

The Netflix film hits theaters on a limited release in the U.S. on March 15 before it lands on the streaming service on March 22. The full “Shirley” cast includes the King sisters, Reddick, Howard, Hedges, Michael Cherrie, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Christina Jackson, Andre Holland, Dorian Missick, Amirah Vann, W. Earl Brown, Brad James and others.

The post Regina King Says Lance Reddick Was the Only Actor She Wanted Playing Activist Wesley Holder in ‘Shirley’ appeared first on TheWrap.