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Though Southside With You zooms in on the first date of Michelle and Barack Obama, the film “has modest ambitions.”
“It’s just a love story,” writer-director Richard Tanne told The Hollywood Reporter at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. “It’s a love story told through the prism of Barry Obama and then Michelle Robinson, not the president and the first lady.”
Parker Sawyers says he wanted to play the role of Barack Obama in the two-hander because of “how they listen to each other — they really challenge each other.” Tika Sumpter agreed, as she was excited about “the challenge of minds” and “real conversation” onscreen.
To research their roles, Sawyers read both of Barack’s books and studied his speeches via YouTube videos. Sumpter, who signed on also as a producer after only reading Tanne’s one-page synopsis, says her best research source was the book written by Michelle’s brother Craig Robinson.
“It basically told me how she was as a younger girl,” she said of A Game of Character. “The great thing is we’re playing them when they were in their 20s, so that kind of alleviated some of the stress.”
Though the Obamas have yet to see the film, their camp has received the script — and sent back a thumbs-up to Tanne. “We have it from a good source that they’re excited and a little baffled by its existence,” he said.
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