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Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to sit down with Emayatzy Corinealdi, a 32-year-old actress whose talent and beauty completely bewitched me while when I watched Ava Duvernay‘s Middle of Nowhere, an indie that was shot in 19 days for less than $500,000 and premiered at January’s Sundance Film Festival, where Duvernay was chosen by the jury as best director and Corinealdi took her first steps on the road to stardom.
Apparently I was not alone, as Corinealdi’s performance as Ruby — an intelligent and ambitious young woman whose husband winds up in jail for a long period of time, leaving her own life stuck in the middle of nowhere — has recently received a barrage of acclaim. She won the best breakthrough actor Gotham Award over high-profile competition including Beasts of the Southern Wild star Quvenzhane Wallis — five of that award’s last eight winners went on to receive an Oscar nomination that same year — and has also been nominated for the best actress Indie Spirit and NAACP Image awards.
The film, meanwhile, has been championed by an impressive roster of high-profile industry figures: Oscar-nominated actress Angela Bassett hosted its Los Angeles premiere; Oscar-nominated actresses Alfre Woodward and Diahann Carroll hosted another special screening of it; Oscar-nominated actress and honorary Oscar recipient Oprah Winfrey gushed about it over Twitter; and Sidney Poitier, the first African-American actor to win an Oscar, beamed in a photo with Corinealdi and her costar David Oyelowo at the Academy’s Governors Awards.
Over the course of my conversation with Corinealdi — the entirety of which you can watch at the top of this post — we discussed a wide variety of topics. Among them: the story behind her unique name; her early training as an actor; why it meant so much to her to appear on the soap opera The Young and the Restless, one of her first credits; her big breakthrough at the 2010 American Black Film Festival; the present-day experience of an actor of color in Hollywood, and what Duvernay’s African-American Film Releasing Movement (AFFRM) is doing to change it; her initial audition for Middle of Nowhere, at which she read for the part of the supporting part of Ruby’s sister; the incredible way in which she found out that she’d landed the role of Ruby; the research that she did to prepare to play the wife of an incarcerated man (including reaching out to several women who have stood by a husband during a jail term); her history with the actor who plays her husband, Omari Hardwick; what she makes of the opportunities and accolades that the film has brought to her; and what sort of a career she hopes to have in the years ahead.
Emayatzy Corinealdi’s name is pronounced Emma-yahtzee Core-nal-dee. I’m confident that she’s going to be a major force in the world of film for a long time, so you’ll have to learn it sooner or later.
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