E’myri Crutchfield – Roots
By: Lisa Steinberg
Q) The series Roots is still so relevant today. Why do you think it was so essential for it to come out now?
A) I think it was very essential for it to come out because it was 50 years ago since the original came out. So, a lot of people like myself (from my generation) don’t know anything about it so it gives viewers an in-depth look about what it means to be taken from your family and to be controlled. It’s really good for educational purposes. It opened my eyes and a lot of peoples’ eyes. I was closed minded to that side of the world so watching the movie gave me a closer idea of how it feels. So, it’s topical for it to come out.
Q) How did they originally describe your character Kizzy to you?
A) When I first got the role, I wasn’t familiar with Roots and the role. So, I went into it doing a lot of research. That is another reason for it to come out now since there are a lot of people who didn’t know anything about Roots. Kizzy is a girl who finds herself living in a slave world. She goes through a lot of trials and tribulations. Her father, Kunta Kinte, is a Mandinka warrior from Africa and he wants Kizzy to continue the dynasty. She has to learn how to ride a horse and trains through different scenarios to learn how to protect herself. She also has a white friend who teaches her how to read and write. When the slave master finds out, he sells off to another slave master who rapes her. She later on gives birth to Chicken George.
Q) Kizzyis an incredible character. How did you come to connect with her in order to portray her?
A) I didn’t want to watch the movie before portraying her to avoid copying the other performance. I have a lot of intense scenes so I did a lot of research on rape victims and giving birth. I watched a lot of YouTube videos about rape victims and their stories. I tried to connect to them. When I got on set, it just came naturally. Once I was on set and became Kizzy, everything came naturally. The feelings came from a very truthful place.
Q) With such an intense role, how were you able to shake off filming at the end of the day?
A) I had one scene with Kunta and my mom, Belle, where the slave master instructs us to come into his office to tell him he found out I wrote a slave pass for one of my friends in order for him to run away. He tells them he is going to sell me off to another master. That scene was so intense that I was crying in the role and once they said “cut” my mom played by Emayatzy Corinealdi and I couldn’t stop crying since it was so intense on set. Our emotions were getting the best of us since people actually went through that. That was real life and we were just imitating it, but it was a very hard thing to do.
Q) What kind of support did you receive on set from your fellow actors?
A) I received a lot of support! Everyone was very opened arms. they were very warm hearted. It was like a family, especially because my mom wasn’t on set with me a lot. I was on set with my grandpa since my mom had to work. Everyone would comfort me and it was a nice experience. I never felt uncomfortable, even when I had to do the rape scene. They didn’t step over any boundaries with me and it didn’t feel awkward at all. They made me feel very comfortable, 100%.
Q) What was the hardest part of filming for you?
A) That’s a good question. The rape scene wasn’t challenging to me at all. I think the most challenging scene was where I had to drown my baby. That was very hard because it was the hardest and took the most emotions. It was just so hard for me to find a way to relate to drowning a baby. That was the toughest.
Q) What was the most rewarding aspect to being a part of Roots and what did you take away from filming?
A) The most rewarding part was getting a nomination for an NAACP Award. I’m so very thankful for that because it has always been my dream. To accept an award one day, I’m pretty sure that is every actor’s dream – to be acknowledged for the work that they have done. Because it is not easy…not even with it is Roots. Even when I did “The Kicks.” That is my reward from that.
Q) Will you be attending the NAACP Awards and who will you be bringing with you?
A) I will be attending and I will have my best friend, Zoe, coming with me and my two aunties and my uncle. They will all be there! Of course, my mom will be there, too.
Q) Who are you most looking forward to meeting at the awards?
A) I am looking forward to seeing the people I worked with like Emayatzy who played my mom and Malachi Kirby who played Kunta. I’m excited to see them since I haven’t seen them since the premiere of Roots. I’m not sure if my favorite celebrity is going to be there, but if Viola Davis is going to be there then I’m going to walk up to that woman. I saw her on “How To Get Away With Murder” where she took off all of her makeup. There is nothing wrong with wearing makeup, but a lot of people hide behind that and let them make that who they are. That was a very strong message when she took it off – from the eyelashes, foundation and to the wig. She just sent a very strong message. You just have to love yourself for who you are and you can’t hide behind a façade.
Q) Do you have a dress picked out yet or a speech?
A) I have found a stylist so we are in the process of picking out dresses. I haven’t worked on my speech yet either. I’m not sure if I want to write one. It might come from the heart.
Q) You are really into fashion. Is there a particular dress style you are looking for?
A) I’m kind of all over the place with fashion style. It just depends on my mood. Whatever dress I like the best that my stylist helps pick, that’s what I’ll go with.
Q) You were a part of the show “The Kicks.” Will there be a Season Two?
A) Unfortunately, no. There won’t be a season two. The show was about a girl named Devin (Sixx Orange) who is from Connecticut, but moves to California for her father’s job. Devin is intimidated because she is scared that the kids in California are going to be much better at soccer than her. She is scared and overwhelmed by the competition. She joins the soccer team at her new school and realizes she is the best player. It takes us on a journey working together to become a better team, looking for a coach and us growing as people since we are young girls. It’s about overcoming obstacles.
Q) Are there any other projects that you are working on?
A) Not right now. I’m just working on school, but hopefully my manager and agent will have something come along. But right now I’m just focusing on school.
Q) What do you hope people have taken away from watching Roots?
A) Right now we’re going through a hard time in the world with everything that is going on. I just hope people take away that we all bleed the same color. No one is better than anyone or less than anyone. We’re all the same and we should treat one another equally. We’ve overcome that time where slavery is real. There is still a lot of racism in the world, but everyone is equal. That’s what I hope everyone takes away from it because that is what I took away from it. I was very sympathetic to the movie and had a lot of compassion when I watched it. It’s hard to watch because it is a harsh reality, but we went through it and we’re kind of still going through it. It’s something to overcome. I hope we can do that one day.