Interview: Amandla Stenberg of ‘The Eddy’
Amandla Stenberg burst on the scene as Rue in The Hunger Games. She has since gone on to play other great roles such as Starr Carter in The Hate U Give and Leyna in Where Hands Touch. Now at 21 she gets a chance to play a young woman at the intersection of adulthood struggling to self-identify as well as connect with her estranged father. I recently had the pleasure of speaking to her for AwardsWatch about her new role as Julie in the Netflix limited series The Eddy, available to stream now. We discussed Julie and what it means as a Black actress to portray someone complex.
KW: Can you discuss how you got involved in the project?
AS: I was first approached by Jack Thorne, the writer of the series. He was familiar with my work. Initially when I first read the project, I couldn’t quite wrap my head around it. I almost went looking for the singular focus or point in the series. I found the writing to be really beautiful. It wasn’t till I spoke to Jack and Damien that it began to manifest and what it would look like in terms of the filmmaking. Speaking to them helped me understand that it was an ensemble.
There is a powerful scene between you and André. Where Julie is lashing out and He says he loves her. How did you prepare for that?
Yeah, that was actually something that we found in the moment. That wasn’t how the scene was scripted. It was scripted as a more back and forth fight where we would be lashing out at one another. What we found in the moment was something different. We were so encouraged by Damien to trust our instincts and to improvise. To find the things we thought would be most interesting. What André did with that scene is that he found something really special: a father’s love for his child even though he’s made mistakes in the past. His love for his daughter is unconditional. I really like that moment too. What’s interesting about it, it opens up the space for hurt to finally be confronted. It was an opportunity for him (Elliot) to be vulnerable but Julie wasn’t ready. Julie has to resolve a lot of her own stuff in the past to get to a place of vulnerability, so that she can accept love from him.
Let us expound on that. Our community (African American) doesn’t really address trauma. How was it approaching such a taboo subject matter?
That was something interesting to find even with me and André’s Black experiences. We understood that trauma is not something that we discuss because therapy is not something that we do. It was interesting to find the disconnect within our two characters generationally. Something that I wanted to explore as Julie. Is that what happens when you have a Black/bi-racial child raised by a white parent. She does not have her Black father present especially during adolescence. What does that do to her connection to herself or her blackness. Hopefully what happens through the show she reconnects to herself via her father.
She is learning in her new relationship that she can’t get away with things. She’s being held accountable. Is that what you were going for?
It’s exactly what I was going for and so glad to hear that. For me what’s so interesting about this character in terms of representation, we were allowed to play as Black actors imperfect people, sometimes we aren’t allowed to be messy. That’s my overall hope for this character that she be allowed to be messy and complicated. She is allowed to be confused about herself at times. She’s trapped in her own mechanisms and I think what’s so special is when we are provided with those opportunities to reflect and turn inwards.
These two characters are hurting. They have love for each other but they don’t know how to properly love. Does that make sense?
I love this clarification. I love it.
Julie turns to music when she thinks she may have lost her dad. How was incorporating music as coping a mechanism?
The title of the second episode was called “The Misery Stick;” that’s another name for the clarinet. The clarinet serves as a metaphor for Father. The clarinet is her father, it is her connection to music and him. In the past it’s something that connected them.
Do you feel that they used Paris effectively, because it’s really easy to fall in love with the postcard and ignore the working-class Paris?
When Damien and I had our first couple of conversations about the series something he wanted the show to be a love letter to Paris, but not necessarily the tourist or mechanized view. He wanted it to look like the communities there and reflect the way people lived. You get an insight into the North African communities that is a huge part of the Parisian culture that is often overlooked. I think it’s one of the most beautiful aspects of the show that Paris is such a melting pot. The directors that were responsible for those episodes (Houda Benyamina and Laïla Marrakchi) were a part of those communities.
What do you want folks to take away from this show?
That is always room to grow and that each person’s experience is valid.
The Eddy is now streaming exclusively on Netflix.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Kathia Woods is a movie critic/entertainment journalist out of Philadelphia, PA. She’s the creator of Cup of Soul Show, an online outlet that covers minority creatives in film, television, and music. She’s a contributor to Mark and Denise in The Morning on 860 A.M WWDBAM.Com, and has covered Sundance, SXSW, Tribeca, and Philadelphia Film Festivals. Kathia was born in Munich Germany but is of Brazilian descent. She is fluent in five languages and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Temple University.