“I’m from Atlanta, born and raised. I’m a child of the SCLC. People love to quote King when we talk about civil rights in America, about enduring the racial reckonings of 2020.”
The quote Danielle Deadwyler centres on today is “dangerous unselfishness”. Taking a stand may be difficult, uncomfortable, risky – but it is right. The 39-year-old actor is one of the fastest rising stars in the industry. She stole every scene as Cuffee in revisionist western The Harder They Fall and her latest, thriller The Devil to Pay, confirms her incredible screen presence. Her roles explore “all kinds of interpretations of beingness”.
In The Devil to Pay she plays Lemon Cassidy, a small-time farmer left in an impossible position when she has to pay a debt left by her husband to protect her son from the vicious Runion clan. Events quickly spiral out of control. The lengths she has to go to exact revenge and retribution are extreme but unavoidable in the circumstances.
“People don’t necessarily want to be that way, the violence comes when they feel that there is no other choice,” Deadwyler says. “Oppression and poverty, those states of being aren’t just born unto themselves, they come from something. Lemon is coming from a place of being pushed to the wall. When you push people too far, they have to revolt, they have to rebel. It’s a cycle that persists in American culture and American society.”
We’re speaking days after the anniversary of the Capitol riots, carried out by people who might also say they had been pushed too far and had to revolt.
“I’m not a historian but I am aware of certain things,” she says. “Communities continue to fight against structures that try to restrict what it means to live in this democracy. The January 6 rioters are the opposition. Theirs is a falsehood that is created in some wack-ass imagination on what it means to live in this democracy. That was terrorism on democracy.”