‘Nine Days’ Star Winston Duke Weighs His ‘Social Responsibility’ to Black Men When Choosing Roles

Winston Duke, Benedict Wong, Zazie Beetz and Bill Skarsgård might be known for their roles in blockbuster franchises like “Black Panther,” “Avengers: Endgame,” “Deadpool” and “It,” but in their latest film “Nine Days,” the actors collaborated on something a little less flashy, but emotionally impactful.

Assembling in Variety’s Sundance Studio, presented by AT&T, ahead of the film’s premiere at the festival with writer-director Edson Oda and co-stars Arianna Ortiz and David Rysdahl, the group shared what they connected to about the existential drama.

“It’s a surreal movie. It’s a drama, sci-fi film about a distant reality that I usually call a ‘before-life reality’ and in this reality, you have a lot of interviewers and they interview souls to choose a soul to be born,” Oda said, detailing the film’s premise. “We show the life of one of those interviewers who is Will (Duke) and he’s going to go through his process that takes nine days to conclude. And during those nine days, he’s going to see all the souls and see which soul he will choose to be born and all the other souls are just going to disappear, no longer exist.”

“I know you’re talking about it’s a ‘sci-fi’ [film,] but I think it’s like a ‘spi-fi’ — spiritual fiction. I’m coining this, I’m trademarking it,” Wong — who plays Will’s friend and neighbor Kyo — added. “But definitely whatever plane we were in with these unborn souls floating around, it really just floated around the many questions to all of us as we were filming this.”

In addition to starring as Will, Duke also served as an executive producer on the film (stepping into that role for the first time) and opened up about the responsibility he felt working in both capacities.

“Anytime I read a script, I always wonder how me playing it and me being a part of it will change the story. Because I know if it was being played by a guy who’s 5’10,” Caucasian, it’d be a different story,” Duke explained. “Doing a project like this that’s having a conversation about strength, about psychology, when it’s using my body, becomes it now a story about blackness whether that was the initial intention or not. That’s what’s going to be conveyed to the audience. And you know, I walk around with a lot of social responsibility to people who look like me because I know that’s where I come from and those people made me who I am.’”

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