Salli Richardson-Whitfield has enjoyed an enviable career in Hollywood, but even she is always seeking new challenges. “As actresses in general there’s very few roles that come around where you can stretch out a little bit and show what you can do,” the actress and director told TheUrbandaily.com about her role in Ava DuVernay’s narrative directorial debut, I Will Follow. “It’s a win-win in this film for me. I was really honored that Ava trusted me with her baby and a project that is very close to her. If I don’t bring what she needs the film fails.”
The beautiful Richardson-Whitfield stars as Maye, a successful career-minded woman with a handsome boyfriend who finds herself recovering from a family tragedy. Inspired by DuVernay’s aunt who died of Cancer, I Will Follow chronicles the day in the life of Maye as she packs up and moves out of the home she shared with her Aunt Amanda (played by Beverly Todd) who recently passed away.
“I was scared and nervous. [But] We should be scared as actors,” she continues. “You should be worried. Those are the jobs we should take to get where we want to be.”
Her belief in pushing the envelope isn’t limited to her resume. It is her hope that audiences will go outside of their usual comfort zones and support a film that doesn’t offer the typical instant gratification.
“I think that we say that we want different kinds of films, we don’t want the same comedies, so now we’re challenging you to go deeper,” she says. “These types of films have to get a voice too. This is the film all of the white folks are going to see at Sundance. It’s real amazing acting by everyone in the film. You don’t feel like you’re watching a movie, you feel like you’re sitting in a room experiencing real life. You’re going to go away feeling a lot of different emotions.”
Richardson took on the world wind project, which was shot in just fifteen days, while on break from her Sy Fy series “Eureka.” The dark “Dramedy” takes place in a small town in the 1940s. The greatest thinkers in the world are gathered there to brainstorm the world’s next technological advances. Richardson actually directs some of the episodes as well as starring in the series.
“Luckily I know the character so I don’t have to worry about the acting part so much,” she says of wearing two hats. “I set it up the way I want to, a stand-in does the blocking for me and I jump in and act. But I hope next year that I’m not in the episode I’m directing so much. But I love the control and power of directing. I love it. I’m hooked.”
Make sure to catch Salli Richardson-Whitfield this Friday March 11 when I Will Follow hits a theater near you!
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