'If Beale Street Could Talk' Editors Discuss "Pressure" of the Adaptation on 'Behind the Screen' Podcast

Joi McMillon, who became the first black woman to be nominated for an Oscar in film editing, and Nat Sanders discuss the 'Moonlight' best picture mix-up and their latest film with Barry Jenkins.
Tatum Mangus/Annapurna Pictures; Inset: Getty Images
'If Beale Street Could Talk'; Inset: Joi McMillon and Nat Sanders

Nat Sanders and Joi McMillon, the Oscar-nominated editors of Moonlight and editors of Barry Jenkins' latest film, If Beale Street Could Talk, are the guests on a new episode of The Hollywood Reporter's Behind the Screen podcast series.

McMillon — who, with Moonlight, became the first black woman to be nominated for an Oscar in film editing — also recently edited 2017’s Lemon. Sanders' credits include 2013 indie Short Term 12, for which he earned his first Independent Spirit Award, and 2017’s The Glass Castle.

During this podcast, they share their memories of the confusion at the Oscars, when Moonlight was named best picture after the envelope mix-up. Sanders shares with a laugh, "I looked over to my right at one point, and Joi had her arm around Warren Beatty, and said 'It's OK, it could happen to anyone.' This was her first feature. ... She's consoling Warren Beatty!"

Reflecting on their careers since that night, McMillon admits that she "sort of became a spokeswoman for black females who are trying to get into editing, that was surprising and also a responsibility that I take very seriously."

During the conversation, the pair discuss the delicate editing of Beale Street, based on James Baldwin's novel. Set in 1970s Harlem, the film follows the story of an African-American couple and their families, as told through the eyes of 19-year-old Tish (played by newcomer KiKi Layne), whose fiancée, Fonny (played by Stephan James), is arrested for a crime he did not commit.

"Barry Jenkins is a man who loves love. The way he captures and projects love is a beautiful thing," McMillon says, adding that when she first learned that they would be making Beale Street, she was "excited, but I felt the pressure of Baldwin. ... For a lot of African Americans growing up in the time period, James Baldwin is a very relevant icon."

Launched last month, Behind the Screen is a new weekly podcast series hosted by THR tech editor Carolyn Giardina, and featuring cinematographers, editors, composers, production designers and other artists behind the magic of motion pictures.

Hear it all on Behind the Screen — and be sure to subscribe to the podcast to never miss an episode.