It’s shaping up to be a big year for Broadway sensation Chantel Riley. The Canadian, currently winning raves for her long-standing turn as Nala in The Lion King, makes her major film debut in a month with a pivotal role in Jesse Owens pic Race.
How much did you know about Jesse Owens before signing on to Race?
I knew a little bit about him. I knew that he was an Olympic champion during the 1936 Olympics in Berlin during Hitlers reign and that he pretty much embarrassed Hitler by winning all those medals…lol
And was it your long-standing role on Broadway’s The Lion King that helped snare you the role?
I can’t really speak for the casting directors on that one, but I like to believe that they saw something in me that they wanted to work with. I mean it wasn’t like they asked for an autograph from Nala or anything when I got on set…haha.
How did stage work prepare you for the film?
The stage taught me to be prepared. Since the show is live every night, you have to be ready at all times because you really never know what is going to happen, and if it does, the show must go on. So, that has allowed me to always be on my toes just in case for example, a line or scene may have been added or dropped.
How much of a role do you have in the film? Can you shed some insight into how your character factors into proceedings?
My character, Quincella Nickerson, gets to spend some time with Jesse. She was a really big fan of his and with her status as a socialite, attended a lot of prestigious parties and dinners with Jesse.
Race is something quite different for filmmaker Stephen Hopkins – who directed Predator 2 and Blown Away, and is likely best known for those types of action-thrillers – how did he do?
I thought Stephen did an awesome job at this film. He was such a pleasure to work with. His directing and storying telling was so clear. You could really feel his passion towards this project while working with him. He was so down to earth and really friendly. LOVE YOU STEPHEN! lol
Was he an actor’s director? Very collaborative?
What I liked about working with him, was that he really allowed me to be free with my choices. He never fed me lines and said “ok do it exactly like this”. I was able to live in the moment and have the liberation of trying new things.
And what do you expect the film to do for your career?
Im hoping that this movie will be able to open up a new path to my acting career with more film opportunities.