September 26, 2020
The Actor on Black Lives Matter, discussing representation with Steve McQueen and remembering co-star Chadwick Boseman
Miss Juneteenth star Nicole Beharie: ‘Black people are not monolithic’
Speaking to Nicole Beharie, it becomes apparent that she is really passionate about science. During our interview, the actor erupts into a flurry of asides, from the discovery of two new black holes to her ardour for neuroscience. “I’m fascinated by Pavlov’s theory of domesticating animals,” she says at one point. “Seeing how culture affects things and why people are the way they are.”Beharie’s interest in the human condition might explain the range and depth of the roles she has played to date, starting with her critically acclaimed lead performance in 2008’s American Violet as a wrongly convicted single mother who refuses to take a plea bargain. Since then, she has starred as the intended parent of a surrogate child in Hulu’s Little Fires Everywhere; the wife of a conflicted cop battling between his badge and his identity in the 2018 drama Monsters and Men, partly inspired by the death of Eric Garner; and as a resilient-yet-flawed former beauty Queen in the upcoming film Miss Juneteenth. A 45-second clip of her performance in an episode of Black Mirror, a masterclass in understated emotion, recently went viral on Twitter.
Beharie’s willingness to embrace change may have something to do with her peripatetic upbringing. Born in Florida in 1985 to a Jamaican mother who grew up in England (Beharie has cousins in Dulwich and Peckham, making her an honorary south Londoner) and an African-American father in the Foreign Service, she spent much of her childhood living across multiple countries. “We lived in Nigeria, Gambia, Panama and up and down the east coast in the US,” she says. “I literally got every piece of the diaspora you can imagine.”
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