How ‘Emancipation’ Star Charmaine Bingwa Fought For Her Character – The Hollywood Reporter
Charmaine Bingwa had just finished a monologue on the set of Salvation when she had a request for the director Antoine Fuqua. Could she make the speech she had just made in English, but this time in Haitian Creole? He said yes. “If my characters speak in another language, but I don’t know it, I feel like a fraud,” Bingwa says. “So I just took it upon myself [to learn the language].” That is, without subtitles, the one that ended up in the drama starring Will Smith.
In Salvation, Smith plays Peter, a character based on a man in a picture who is often called “Whipped Peter” because of his scarred back. The film follows Peter’s escape from slavery to find the Union forces after learning that Abraham Lincoln declared that people were enslaved. Bingwa plays Peter’s wife, Dodienne. While he is being pursued in the swamps of Louisiana, her faith tells her that her husband will return. The film is the first big-budget project ($120 million) for the Australian actress from Zimbabwe – and she was involved in acting opposite Smith, whom she calls “iconic”. The project also needed her emotionally. Her scenes, for example, were filmed on a real plantation. “I don’t care what religion you are,” she says. “There is an added presence.”
Bingwa has had a long journey into acting. At the insistence of her “typical African parents,” she earned a business degree and spent time trying to get into the corporate world before going back to school to pursue music. “I had to choose two electives to complete the degree, and one of them was acting,” she says. “Something just clicked and I realized, ‘I think this is what I should be doing with my life.’ “
A knack for music is one of the reasons she says she has an ear for languages and dialects, but she also prepared to play Dodienne by listening to at least 120 hours of recitals with enslaved people. Bingwa was an advocate for her character on set, not only wanting to play the aforementioned scene in Dodienne’s native language, but also working with Fuqua and screenwriter Bill Collage to give her more of a voice. give her “At first the scene was a little closer, but I went to Antoine and the screenwriter and I was like, ‘I think she has more to say here,'” she recalls. “I think it’s especially important for black women in cinema. In the past, we’ve been missing out completely or we’re marginalized, so it’s important to me that they have a voice.”
While Bingwa plans to write and direct her own material, her collaboration with Fuqua extends to his next project. She will appear in the Showtime series he is producing, King Shakaplaying a hero she describes as “wild and terrible.”
“I feel Salvation she was the glorious and pleasant mother, and it’s beautiful when someone else sees more potential in you,” she says.
Both characters depart from Carmen Moyo, the lawyer Bingwa played on the last two seasons of Good Sunday, which ended its run in November. “This is a year-long gift for me, to be able to play these three amazing but very different women. It is encouraging to see that what women can be on the screen is being expanded. I’m not sure those roles were ever around.”
This story first appeared in the January standalone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.