Aja King carries the colossal role of Cherry, Nat Turner’s wife in the highly buzzed about film Birth of A Nation. Nate Parker, who co-wrote and directed the motion picture plays Turner, an educated slave used by his master to preach to other slaves about obedience. However, Turner later leads a slave revolt killing about 65 white men and women in Southampton County, Va.
The powerful film doesn’t shy away from the horrors of slavery. Scenes of violence and emotional turmoil litter the nearly two-hour movie long before the actual uprising begins. And while Parker’s 1999 rape case hangs over his head and the film (Parker was found not guilty of the crime, while the film’s co-writer Jean Celestin was convicted) King says after learning the news, she was torn, but managed through by thinking about the purpose of bring Nat Turner’s story to life.
“I was extremely conflicted,” King said. “I really loved the Op-Ed Gabrielle Union wrote because I felt like it spoke to everything I was feeling. You know, here’s someone I know personally, and it’s been disturbing to say the least. But the thing I’ve been able to hold onto is this special and brief moment in time last year when we were all in Savannah, Georgia and shooting this film, this independent film at the time I was like ‘You know, maybe no one will even see this’ but just knowing, what it meant to me to be standing on a plantation, in that heat, on that soil, knowing that everything that happened there and allowing that to wash over me.”
The bloody uprising led by Turner lasted 48 hours but caused a massive disruption, even if it was just momentarily, to the status quo. The How To Get Away With Murder Actress chatted with Vibe after the film’s screening of the Toronto Film Festival about what needs to be done to change the constant killing of black men and women at the hands of law enforcement in America.
“The thing is, we have done so much,” King said. “We as black people have continued to do so much. The disruption that needs to happen is that it can’t just be us anymore. It has to be everyone. Everyone has to be as angry as we are.”