*Discovering love for the first time as a teenager is one of life’s sweetest moments and in the film, “Everything, Everything,” based on the #1 New York Times bestselling book of the same name, the film explores the topic – with a twist.
Amandla Stenberg (“Hunger Games”) stars as a young adult in the quirky drama, opening Friday (May 19, 2017), who falls in love with the new next-door neighbor’s son, played by Nick Robinson (“Jurassic World”). However, the first love ritual gets complicated because she has a rare disease that does not allow her to go outdoors and her overbearing mother, played by Anika Noni Rose, who wants to protect her at all costs.
Director Stella Meghie told the EUR at a recent VIP reception for the film in Los Angeles that Stenberg fit her role perfectly.
“It was definitely such a short list,” said Meghie. “When I first met Amandla, I knew she would be right for it. She ended up auditioning and she was so perfect. She had this positive energy and she was inquisitive, with some naiveté. She just layered the role and was the right person.”
As for Rose, Meghie said of the Tony-award winning actress, who nabs both juicy television and film roles, “I had my eye on Anika for a long time. She’s such a great actress.”
Born in Toronto, Meghie made a splash at last year’s South by Southwest film festival with her feature directorial debut “Jean of the Joneses,” based loosely on her Jamaican family. As the writer of the film, she also received a nomination for the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay. With that success, she was quickly snapped up by top talent organization Creative Artists Agency (CAA) and in quite a short time was sent the “Everything, Everything” script.
“When I saw the script and I saw the book, I grabbed on to it because the lead is a young black girl and it was a story about love,” said Meghie. “I hope people will be able to see themselves in that character because many have not been able to see themselves in this way on the big screen. I hope it’s something that is special to them and that they can see themselves as deserving of leading roles in their life.”
Meghie added, “There’s a beautiful vulnerability in the book, in the story, and hopefully people grab on to that too. It’s a good thing. I saw it almost as a dark fairytale and you’re not allowed to be whimsical in this way as a black girl onscreen. It’s very unique and I hope it’s appreciated.”
It is rare that a film showcases the talent of so many black women – in this case, it’s four – the director, two of the starring roles are black women, and the bestselling author of the book, Nicola Yoon, is also black. Meghie says when the pivotal love scene was shot and viewed in post-production, the importance of black women and blackness really hit home.
“I remember when I was shooting that scene, someone ran out and said, ‘She needs to turn around, she needs to turn around.’ I was like, ‘No, I want to see her back. I want to see her brown back, and her skin fill up the screen.’”
Meghie continued, “When Nicola Yoon saw her back fill up the screen, she cried. Just to see brown skin across a wide screen you know. That was important to me. That was important in the coloring session (during postproduction) when they try to wash (out) the color a little bit. It was a little dark. I was like turn up the saturation. Let her blow up.”
The “Everything, Everything” VIP reception was hosted by noted photographer Eunique Jones Gibson. In 2012, her “I am Trayvon Martin” photo campaign went viral and has since morphed into the black history photo movement, “Because of Them, We Can,” which depicts young black children as historical figures like Frederick Douglas, Phyllis Wheatley, Maya Angelou, and Malcolm X. Gibson was honored to be part of the event and film because it parallels what her organization’s goals.
“You have all of these black women who represent excellence,” said Gibson. “It’s related because all of these women are blazing the trail for other young directors, young actresses, and young people in general who want to be in the arts and who want to come behind them. ‘Because of Them, We Can’ is about blazing a trial and making sure that you’re cognizant of the people who come behind you and that you remember those that you’re paving the way for.”
For more on, “Because of Them, We Can,” click here. “Everything, Everything” opens in Theaters everywhere on Friday, May 19, 2017. For more on the bestselling author, Nicola Yoon, click here.