×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Tika Sumpter on Playing Michelle Obama in ‘Southside With You’: ‘She Doesn’t Apologize For Being Who She Is’

Tika Sumpter’s career has ranged from acting in “One Life to Live” and “Gossip Girl” to modeling and appearing in music videos. This month, she co-stars with Parker Sawyers in the film “Southside With You,” about the early romance of Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson, which marks Sumpter’s debut as a big-screen producer and opens Aug. 26.

What inspired you to begin acting?

When I was younger, I loved “The Cosby Show.” Phylicia Rashad stood out because of her strength and vulnerability and complexity. And that she was an attorney. I was like, “I want to do that!” I didn’t know how it was going to happen, but I just remember as a little girl wanting to be on TV.

How did you become a producer?

When the synopsis of “Southside With You” was given to me, I thought, “Whoever wrote this is a genius.” So I met with the writer [Richard Tanne] and I was like, “Write the script!” Once he’d finished, I was in love with it. I gave it to my agent, and the ball started rolling. It wasn’t about having a vanity producer credit — I really worked hard to put all the pieces together, to pitch it to people, to get people excited, and to actually get it made.

How will the public react?

Popular on Variety

I hope they’re excited! We played it at Sundance to a crowd that loves films, but we also played it to an outside crowd, and they reacted just like the Sundance audience. You don’t have to be a Republican or a Democrat. It’s about love, it’s about connection, and it’s about understanding human relationships.

What makes it more than just another romantic comedy?

To me, a lot of romcoms are about the woman chasing the man. From the very beginning, Michelle Robinson is the prize, and I love her intelligence, and how she doesn’t apologize for being who she is. Her parents gave her so much self-esteem, and instilled in her so much depth. She just spoke her mind and was open to change.

Does Hollywood devalue romances between characters of color?

I don’t think it’s necessarily devaluing; I just think there’s not enough of it. It doesn’t have to be one particular way. We’re not all singers and dancers and athletes.

Have the Obamas seen the film?

I don’t know! But John Legend is a part of a lot of their initiatives, and he’s an executive producer — so I’m sure they know about it.

What you didn’t know about Sumpter: AGE: 36 RAISED IN: New York City ALMA MATER: Marymount Manhattan BIG BREAK: Playing Layla Williamson on “One Life to Live”     UNEXPECTED NOTORIETY: Her tweets during a 2015 Democratic debate were noted by The Washington Post

More Film

  • Kirby Dick Amy Ziering

    'On The Record,' Russell Simmons #MeToo Doc, Charts Course to Sundance After Oprah Exit

    Update: A spokesperson for Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering says the filmmaking team will participate in print and broadcast interviews at the Sundance film festival. The accusers featured in the film are weighing press options at this time. Earlier, a spokesperson for the film “On The Record” confirmed to Variety that only photo calls would [...]

  • Ariel Winograd'TOD@S CAEN' film premiere, Los

    Viacom International Studios Signs First Look Deal with Ariel Winograd (EXCLUSIVE)

    MADRID  — Adding to a powerful and still growing talent roster, Viacom International Studios (VIS) has clinched a first-look deal with Argentine writer-director Ariel Winograd whose latest movie, “The Heist of the Century,” has just become one of the biggest Argentine openers in history. The multi-year pact takes in the development and production of not [...]

  • William Bogert Dead: 'Small Wonder' Actor

    William Bogert, Who Appeared in 'War Games,' 'Small Wonder,' Dies at 83

    TV, film and theater actor William Bogert, who appeared in a recurring role on 1980s sitcom “Small Wonder” and in films such as “War Games,” died Jan. 12 in New York. He was 83. On “Small Wonder,” which ran from 1985 to 1989, Bogert played Brandon Brindle, the Lawsons’ neighbor and Harriet’s father who became [...]

  • 1917 Movie

    Why '1917' Is the Last Film That Should Be Winning the Oscar (Column)

    There’s a feeling I always get at the end of a long Oscar night when the movie that won isn’t a terrible choice, but it’s the safe, blah, MOR predictable choice, the one that conforms to the dullest conventional wisdom about the kinds of movies Oscar voters prefer, because in the core of their being [...]

  • Civil Rights Drama 'Praying for Sheetrock'

    Civil Rights Drama 'Praying for Sheetrock' in the Works as Feature Film (EXCLUSIVE)

    Enderby Entertainment is developing a feature film based on Melissa Fay Greene’s civil rights drama “Praying for Sheetrock,” Variety has learned exclusively. The non-fiction book, published in 1991, was a finalist for the National Book Award and won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize, Georgia Historical Society Bell Award and the ACLU National Civil [...]

  • Jared Harris arrives at the 26th

    No, Jared Harris is Not Playing Doctor Octopus in Marvel's 'Morbius'

    The first-ever trailer for Marvel and Sony’s next Spider-man spinoff “Morbius” left comic book fans reeling with theories. While the plight of the main character, Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) – a scientist dying of a rare blood disease who accidentally turns himself into a vampire – seemed ripped right out of the comics, the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content