I don’t think it’s an overstatement to suggest that Black folks are starved for images of ourselves in love, on the big screen. For those of us who love romantic comedies, we have to watch a lot of White people navigate the intricacies of relationships. Naturally, as a Black person, it’s always good to see Black skin.
And we have a new one, starring Issa Rae, LaKeith Stanfield (Get Out, Sorry to Bother You), Chanté Adams (Roxanne Roxanne) and Y’lan Noel (“Insecure”).
Directed by Stella Meghie (The Weekend, Everything, Everything), the film is about Mae Morton (Issa), a museum curator who is dealing with the death of her estranged mother, a famous photographer. After discovering an old photograph from her mother’s safety deposit box, Mae begins a journey to uncover the woman her mother really was. On her quest, Mae meets a journalist Michael Block (Stanfield) who is working on a story about Mae’s mother.”
In an interview with Shadow and Act, Meghie said, “I was 16 watching Love Jones on repeat. It was an adult, very sexy, intellectual, sophisticated kind of love. That film shaped me a lot. Love & Basketball was a big thing for me. Gina Prince-Bythewood is a definite inspiration. Hav Plenty as well.”
Meghie is working with producer Will Packer for the film. Issa worked with Meghie when she directed an episode of “Insecure” but when she learned of Meghie’s script, she realized that she had to be involved. “I’d seen her films before and just loved what she did with our episode. The script just came my way and I loved the story. I’ve missed Back romance movies and thought that this was just so well written and a story that I wanted to see on screen. That’s what enticed me.”
Stanfield shared her sentiment. “My manager sent me the story because he really liked it. We’d been talking about relationships and going through relationships and a lot of things in the script, in terms of getting together and breaking up, it spoke to what I knew to be my experiences in relationships. I thought it would also be a unique opportunity to see two Black people in love.”
Meghie explained that the decision to cast two brown-skinned people was a conscious one.
“It was important for me to have a brown skin girl play Mae and have the same for Michael. Unfortunately, it’s not seen a lot. As a Black woman, I felt like the onus is on me to do it.”
Issa, who has built an empire on being awkward shared that stepping up to the play the romantic lead was something she never imagined for herself.
“I was laughing when I got this role. When I got made up for it I just had to laugh because I said, ‘They’ve got me out here being a Nia Long and I joked about that in Awkward Black Girl.’ That was something really cool and flattering about that. I never imagined playing the object of affection. It’s also not how I operate, but I love those kinds of movies. Given that we haven’t had a lot of representation in that outside of someone like a Nia Long or even a Gabrielle Union, it’s just funny to picture myself in that type of role. Little girl me dreamed to play that, and I get to play along with someone like Lakeith who is also so incredible. Mae’s not someone who leads with humor so that’s different. I’m like, ‘Oh —she’s not going to make a joke out of this situation?’ But that’s refreshing and fun.”
The Photograph is set to be released on Valentine’s Day weekend 2020.
You can watch the trailer in the video below.