Ava DuVernay’s adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s beloved 1962 science fantasy novel “A Wrinkle in Time” has piqued the attention of some of the book’s cult following and advocates for diversity in media. The enormous $103 million budget, the largest ever given to a black female director, has raised the already-existing anticipation around the film. DuVernay’s decision to recruit a diverse, A-list cast and release a call for a biracial young actress that landed 14-year-old Storm Reid the part of the originally white protagonist Meg Murry has also received much acclaim.
“A Wrinkle in Time” follows Meg’s trip across the universe to find her disappeared scientist father and herself. With the help of her younger brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), friend Calvin (Levi Miller) and the three physical manifestations of the universe (Reese Witherspoon, Oprah Winfrey, and Mindy Kaling), Meg reveals to the audience how to surmount their greatest anxieties and “be a warrior.”
The Emory Wheel and other local publications spoke in person with Reid about her transformative experiences on set and her passion for spreading the message of the film to young people.
This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: Did anybody give you any special advice about the industry?
A: Yes. Ms. Oprah said that with everything that is happening in my career right now, all the change, that I wasn’t going to change as a person, and I still was going to know who I was, but that the people around me would change. I really took that to heart because she has been in this industry for so long, and she’s a megastar, and for her to give me that advice was special.
Q: What do you want people to take from the movie?
A: I want people to feel inspired. I want the audience to know that they can be themselves and that they are perfect just the way they are, and they shouldn’t let anybody tell them any different. I think that the movie really transcends that.
Q: How did you decide to go about playing Meg?
A: I just tried to stay true to her journey. I also knew there’d be some similarities and differences. I really had to step into her shoes and become her because I haven’t gone through her experiences. I had to put myself into her character.
Q: What do you like about her character?
A: I like that she is so peculiar. She doesn’t really see how beautiful and smart she is and everyone else does. She has to go on a trip around the universe to figure that out. She’s able and willing to risk her life for the things and people she loves.
Q: What do you think that dynamic between the boys and girls in the films says about the way they can interact in group dynamics?
A: I feel that young men should be able to be feel vulnerable and be okay with that and just let young women and protagonists take the lead. I feel that it’s disheartening that young men feel they always have to take the lead and be strong because women can be just as strong and help out too. I feel like Meg really showed that to Calvin and that he was accepting of it and that was a weight off of his shoulders. For Calvin to let Meg do that was really special, and we could tell that was a connection between the two of them in the movie.
Q: Where would like to see your career go after “A Wrinkle in Time”?
A: I’d love to continue acting because it’s my dream and passion. I’d like to become a filmmaker in the future, and I am producing stuff now. I don’t know where my career is going to be in the next five to 10 years. I hope it’s in a good space, and I hope I can keep representing young African-American women in stories that have depth and that are the light for audiences. I know whatever is meant for me will be, I am just going with the flow.
Q: What were some challenges you faced during filming?
A: It was my first lead role, and I was really intimidated when I got the role. I felt like I couldn’t do it and I couldn’t pull it off but everybody made me feel so comfortable. They reassured me that I was doing it because it was meant for me. And then the stunt and the green screen were a challenge because I’ve never done that before. It’s hard to imagine the unimaginable, but once I practiced and got through that it was so much fun.
Q: We are in the midst of a cinematic moment where demands for representation are being met with actual results through films like this and “Black Panther.” What do you hope that the legacy of this film does? What do you hope that it does for this moment?
A: Yes. I feel like “Black Panther” and “A Wrinkle in Time” are so monumental especially when our world is so divided and disconnected. I hope that our movies raise awareness that African-American people can be represented and represented in the right way. We should all be represented to succeed in this world because there are so many different cultures, religions and race in the world, and I hope that we can keep adding more representation not only to the movie industry but to the world.
Q: What kinds of lessons did you feel that you learned from Ava DuVernay?
A: Her actions speak louder than words, and she is a great representation of that. She is so hands-on and really cares about the creative process. She cares about the people who surround her that help make the movie. She opened my eyes to that. Not to just be an actor, director or producer, but also to represent and include people within your cast and your crew.
Q: What is something you learned about yourself that you didn’t know before the film?
A: I learned that I was capable of playing roles like this. Being able to save the world as a little black girl — because we don’t see that — little black girls don’t get to see themselves represented or better yet saving the world. I learned that I can do anything that I wanted to do, and, of course, I already knew that, but being given this opportunity — a lot of young people are telling me that I am the light for them which is a really amazing responsibility. I just learned that I could be the light for people in this world.
Q: What do you think it means to “be a warrior” in 2018?
A: To be a warrior is to be yourself. To be a warrior is to find the love and light within yourself, to help people and be not physically but mentally strong. To know that the power is that you have the power and that you can help not only yourself but the people around you.