“I sort of did it as a love letter for my daughter Zoe,” the actor said. “It’s the first time I’ve done a film that I can take my whole family to. For someone of African descent myself to see a positive, life-affirming story like this was something I really wanted to be a part of. I couldn’t believe Disney was making a movie like this.”
“Queen of Katwe” is an uplifting story about the underdog. Set in Uganda, the story follows Phiona Mutesi, a young girl who dreams of playing chess. However, the film’s screenwriter, William Wheeler, comes from a completely different background than the film’s protagonists.
“I didn’t grow up in Uganda. It’s as much as an empathic leap as I’ve ever done as a writer,” said Wheeler.
When asked if he had faced criticism regarding his white background, Wheeler said he has faced none.
“I’ve thought about that because it’s a relevant question. I trusted the people involved who thought I would be helpful to the story,” Wheeler said. “I had to trust them – they knew who I was and where I came from and my perspective and those things can be helpful. It wasn’t my job to disqualify myself so I figured I’d put my faith in them.”
Lupita Nyong’o, who plays Harriet Mutesi, instantly felt a connection with the material and jumped at the chance to play the role.
“I was less than ten pages in when I decided to be part of the film because it’s a true story, an uplifting one about a young girl with a big dream. The characters that I met in those ten pages were complex and layered and interesting and I wanted to be part of telling this story – it doesn’t come around very often,” said Nyong’o.
“Queen of Katwe” makes its move on September 23.