Nicole Beharie Reflects On Her Role In 'Breaking' & Working With The Late Michael K. Williams
Breaking actress Nicole Beharie was only recently informed that a clip of her in the Black Mirror "Striking Vipers" episode keeps resurfacing on social media three years after the episode first aired on Netflix. When asked about it during the press cycle for her latest film, she seems stumped about what draws fans to this particular performance.
“I don’t fully know. I’m just really humbled. I just do the work. I don't even read reviews and get too tied up in what happens after,” she tells xoNecole. “I got into this work because I wanted to connect with people and understand things about humanity. If people are connecting with something so small that means the world to me.”
Perhaps what people are reacting to in the "Striking Vipers" scene is the subtle but powerful decisions Beharie makes in portraying a wife whose husband seems to have inexplicably emotionally checked out of their family life. She embodies both the measured frustrations and empathy of someone seeking honesty from their partner. It’s a master class in acting, but it’s also fairly common of Beharie’s acting performances.
She brings this same nuance to her role as Estel Valerie, a bank manager who is held hostage by a veteran who is seeking money owed to him by Veterans Affairs. John Boyega stars in the film as the veteran, Brian Brown-Easley, while Rosa Diaz plays another terrified bank employee and the late Michael K. Williams portrays a negotiator. Breaking is based on an article about the real-life story of Easley, who took two hostages in a Wells Fargo in metro Atlanta in 2017 claiming the V.A. owed him $892.
Beharie says she didn’t know much about the story when she originally read the script, but she eventually did a number of things to prepare for the role, including traveling to Marietta, Georgia where the bank was located. (The branch was permanently closed following the incident.) “I had to sort of figure out what the protocol is for being a bank manager,” she says. “What’s the day-to-day and then what are you taught to do when there’s a robbery?”
The actress says she reviewed “police statements, written statements, CCTV footage, footage of outside of the bank and lots of photographs” to learn about the woman her character is based on, but she ultimately decided not to reach out to the woman herself out of respect for the trauma she endured. “I felt like it was kind of close to home and we could take care of it without having to bring it back up for people,” she says.
Throughout the film, Beharie brings nuance to a character who has been placed in an unimaginable situation. As Estelle Valerie, she is both compassionate for Easley, resolute in trying to protect herself and the others inside the bank, and outspoken about her frustrations with the police department for the way they are handling the hostage negotiations.
Embodying a character who is navigating a traumatic situation is not easy. “Maintaining that level of fear, having that fight or flight response in your body for 12-14 hours a day for a few weeks can be a lot,” she says.
Still, she’s quick to praise her fellow cast members for their work on camera and behind the scenes. “[Boyega] just absolutely came in kicking the door, waving the 44. Total commitment, full energy, focus, and clarity,” she says of the lead actor.
She’s more solemn when reflecting on WIlliams’ role. It’s one of the final projects the celebrated actor worked on before he died last year. “This has been a weird last few days, having this movie come out and seeing his face, and him not being a part of the press junket,” she says.
Most of Beharie’s scenes take place inside the bank with Boyega and Diaz, but she has one off-camera phone call with Williams. The late actor was scheduled to be off work the day Beharie filmed the scenes, but he showed up to read lines with her. “I don’t know if people who are not in the business know this or not but that’s sort of an unheard of thing. That’s a very, very, exceedingly generous thing to do,” she says. “That’s the kind of thing I want to take with me. That’s the kind of person I want to be when I’m on set.”
Ultimately, Beharie says these moments with the rest of the cast, and the overall message of the story is what made the challenging role worthwhile. “Brian went through all that he went through so that he could be heard, and so that what was really owed to him would be his. That’s what I took from the story.”
Breaking is now in theaters.
Featured image by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images
How Content Creators Hey Fran Hey And Shameless Maya Embraced The Pivot
This article is in partnership with Meta Elevate.
If you’ve been on the internet at all within the past decade, chances are the names Hey Fran Hey and Shameless Maya (aka Maya Washington) have come across your screen. These content creators have touched every platform on the web, spreading joy to help women everywhere live their best lives. From Fran’s healing natural remedies to Maya’s words of wisdom, both of these content creators have built a loyal following by sharing honest, useful, and vulnerable content. But in search of a life that lends to more creativity, freedom, and space, these digital mavens have moved from their bustling big cities (New York City and Los Angeles respectively) to more remote locations, taking their popular digital brands with them.
Content Creators Hey Fran Hey and Maya Washington Talk "Embracing The Pivot"www.youtube.com
In partnership with Meta Elevate — an online learning platform that provides Black, Hispanic, and Latinx-owned businesses access to 1:1 mentoring, digital skills training, and community — xoNecole teamed up with Franscheska Medina and Maya Washington on IG live recently for a candid conversation about how they’ve embraced the pivot by changing their surroundings to ultimately bring out the best in themselves and their work. Fran, a New York City native, moved from the Big Apple to Portland, Oregon a year ago. Feeling overstimulated by the hustle and bustle of city life, Fran headed to the Pacific Northwest in search of a more easeful life.
Her cross-country move is the backdrop for her new campaign with Meta Elevate— a perfectly-timed commercial that shows how you can level up from wherever you land with the support of free resources like Meta Elevate. Similarly, Maya packed up her life in Los Angeles and moved to Sweden, where she now resides with her husband and adorable daughter. Maya’s life is much more rural and farm-like than it had been in California, but she is thriving in this peaceful new setting while finding her groove as a new mom.
While Maya is steadily building and growing her digital brand as a self-proclaimed “mom coming out of early retirement,” Fran is redefining her own professional grind. “It’s been a year since I moved from New York City to Portland, Oregon,” says Fran. “I think the season I’m in is figuring out how to stay successful while also slowing down.” A slower-paced life has unlocked so many creative possibilities and opportunities for these ladies, and our conversation with them is a well-needed reminder that your success is not tied to your location…especially with the internet at your fingertips. Tapping into a community like Meta Elevate can help Black, Hispanic, and Latinx entrepreneurs and content creators stay connected to like minds and educated on new digital skills and tools that can help scale their businesses.
During a beautiful moment in the conversation, Fran gives Maya her flowers for being an innovator in the digital space. Back when “influencing” was in its infancy and creators were just trying to find their way, Fran says Maya was way ahead of her time. “I give Maya credit for being one of the pioneers in the digital space,” Fran said. “Maya is a one-person machine, and I always tell her she really changed the game on what ads, campaigns, and videos, in general, should look like.”
When asked what advice she’d give content creators, Maya says the key is having faith even when you don’t see the results just yet. “It’s so easy to look at what is, despite you pouring your heart into this thing that may not be giving you the returns that you thought,” she says. “Still operate from a place of love and authenticity. Have faith and do the work. A lot of people are positive thinkers, but that’s the thinking part. You also have to put your faith into work and do the work.”
Fran ultimately encourages content creators and budding entrepreneurs to take full advantage of Meta Elevate’s vast offerings to educate themselves on how to build and grow their businesses online. “It took me ten years to get to the point where I’m making ads at this level,” she says. “I didn’t have those resources in 2010. I love the partnership with Meta Elevate because they’re providing these resources for free. I just think of the people that wouldn’t be able to afford that education and information otherwise. So to amplify a company like this just feels right.”
Watch the full conversation with the link above, and join the Meta Elevate community to connect with fellow businesses and creatives that are #OnTheRiseTogether.
Featured image courtesy of Shameless Maya and Hey Fran Hey
Tabitha Brown Opens Up About Her Success And Why It Is Important to Stay True to Oneself
The amount of courage it takes an individual not to give up on their dreams or aspirations while trusting God's plans and refusing to compromise themselves despite failing to see immediate gratification for their hard work showcases just how strong that person is.
One star that fits that particular description is Tabitha Brown. Before becoming a household name as a social media personality, Emmy-nominated host, entrepreneur, author, and so much more, Brown was just trying to break into Hollywood as an actress.
Although in the past, Brown shared that growing up, she always envisioned herself being a performer, her story didn't begin until the mid-2000s when she and her family moved to California so that she could pursue her acting career. In addition to attending auditions, Brown would take on odd jobs, such as working at a Macy's warehouse and becoming an Uber Driver.
The star's first brush with fame --aside from previously co-hosting an entertainment show for a local North Carolina television station-- occurred in 2017 when Brown shared a video that went viral of a Whole Foods vegan sandwich in her car while taking a brief break from her Uber duties.
That particular post would lead to a brand ambassador deal with the company. Brown's success continues beyond there. Three years later, in March 2020, as the global pandemic hit and many were forced into isolation, Brown started posting inspirational and vegan food videos on TikTok. Her posts would immediately go viral, gaining millions of fans almost overnight. To date, Brown has five million followers on TikTok.
Many, including Brown, can attest she became successful in various avenues for three reasons: her authenticity, loving personality, and being intentional.
Tabitha Brown On Being Authentic
Often when many become successful, they would change who they are to fit the particular structure that brands or companies want them to be. But that wasn't the case for Brown.
During a recent interview with Fast Company, the 44-year-old shared that being authentic has allowed her to remain "free" in her career because she didn't have to act a particular way depending on what room she was in and who she was working alongside.
"I've branded myself on just being myself. I don't change who I am because I'm with children. I don't change who I am because I'm at a board meeting. I'm the same Tab. I show up completely free, completely me," Brown explained.
Brown On Leading With Love
Another factor that helped contribute to Brown's accomplishments was that she added love as the main component in everything she's done.
Since the very beginning, Brown would address her fans in many of her videos as if they were family members by always including them in every aspect of her life, from the highs and the lows. At the end of every clip, Brown left them with words of encouragement. The most prominent one is: "Have a good day, and if you can't, don't go messing up nobody else's."
In the interview, Brown also revealed that she learned over time that leading in love with any project she participates in, whether with her cooking videos, books, children's television show, hair care brand, or fashion line, brings people in.
"I lead in love, and I root everything in that—and I think that's what draws people in. I've never claimed to be like an expert, she said. "Honey, I ain't a chef. I ain't been to nobody's chef school, Cordon Bleu, yellow, green, or purple. I am just a woman who cooks for her family, and now it has become a thing."
Brown On Being Intentional
Brown's final reason for her success was setting her intentions on helping others be "seen and heard" as they are.
Brown told the publication, aside from following her own dreams, that after seeing the joy she brought to many people's lives by simply posting a video on social media, regardless of the topic, she made it a priority to participate in things that she knew could help others become precisely who they were meant to be.
"I wake up with that intention," she stated. My intention is to love people, be good to people. My intention is to make someone smile. My intention is make someone feel loved and seen and heard."
Brown's overall journey is an inspirational one. Although she has accomplished a lot over the years, Brown intends to strive for more by eventually expanding her fashion line and starring in a sitcom.
Whatever Brown chooses, it would surely be something well-received because of the foundation behind it.
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Feature image by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images