Delivering a BAFTA masterclass on Tuesday, King was in conversation with U.K. actor and presenter Reggie Yates, who questioned the director about her stance on the transatlantic casting debate.
In “One Night in Miami,” Ben-Adir portrays the civil rights leader during an imagined evening with Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown and Sam Cooke. The actor is no stranger to playing American icons, having portrayed President Barack Obama in “The Comey Rule.” On Monday, Ben-Adir won the Gotham award for breakthrough actor.
When asked about the ongoing conversation about British actors playing American icons, King said: “In my opinion, I feel like the best actor for the role should play the part; the actor that truly understands the role that they’re playing.”
“And of course I had my own moments of thinking, ‘How are people going to [react]?’ because, as you say, this conversation is going on and it’s been going on,” King added. “But up until that moment, if I was moved by a performance, I really don’t care where a person’s from because as an audience member, to me, they truly understood what they were doing, what they were embodying.”
King said some “feelings and experiences” shared by Black people in the U.K. and countries like Brazil mirror the experiences of the Black community in the U.S. “While, yes, the history of how a country came to be may be different, but the marginalization of a Black man is the same…in all of those places.”
Last year, “Judas and the Black Messiah” writer and director Shaka King similarly defended the casting of Daniel Kaluuya in the role of American civil rights leader Fred Hampton.
Yates, whose feature directorial debut “Pirates” is due this year, asked King about her wearing a T-shirt depicting Breonna Taylor — who was fatally shot by plainclothes police officers in her Louisville, Ky. apartment on March 13 — while collecting the outstanding lead actress in a limited series or movie Emmy for her role in “Watchmen,” and whether world events have inspired her future projects, or if she’s instead taking it easy.
“I definitely am developing things that are lighter in subject matter, but yes, quite a few of the other projects that I’m developing are reflections of what is going on in our world,” said King. “So that is something I can’t help. But, you know, I am a fun person. I do laugh.”
Voting for the BAFTAs began Tuesday following a lengthy diversity review. The longlists will be announced Feb. 4. “One Night in Miami” is in contention across most major categories.
The Regina King masterclass was part of BAFTA’s year-round learning and events program.