Till’s Danielle Deadwyler Talks Portraying Mamie Till-Mobley

Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Till-Mobley, Till


For almost all her life, 40-year-old Danielle Deadwyler has been accustomed to Mamie Till-Mobley tale. 

The actor – a self-proclaimed “child of Atlante” – recounts her first encounter with Till-Mobley as early as primary school. Till-Mobley goes on a lifelong adventure for justice following the murder of her 14-year-old son, Emmett, in 1995. 

However, that early knowledge didn’t prepare Deadwyler for the feelings that came out when she first read the script for Till, written by writer-director Chinonye Chukwu. 

“I saw the script come in over email. And I was like, ‘Oh, God. I can’t process this right now,” Deadwyler said in an interview with EW ahead of Till’s premiere in Los Angeles last October. 

“It was a little bit of fear. It was a little bit of anxiety and nervousness about going there in general, right? And so, I had to slow-step into taking all of it in.” 

Deadwyler is famously known for her debut performance in HBO’s Station Eleven, which earned critical acclaim. 

She said she moved aside the self-tape audition for weeks. Finally, however, following three or four reads, she was given the role of Mamie. And she felt a “temporary joy.” “Then you have a washing over of the motherload of responsibility,” she continued. 

“I’m a child of certain civil-rights legacy institutions in Atlanta,” said Deadwyler. She reminisced about her time as a Southern Christian Leadership Conference volunteer with Martin Luther King Jr. as director. 

“I didn’t know it at the time, but it’s kind of energy and spirit working over [the film]. That’s what got me into it. I came into it with a personal legacy.” 

Focus on Joy

Early on in production, filmmaker Chukwu and executive producer Whoopi Goldberg chose to center on happiness: Something that can be absent in the wake of a tragedy. 

“There is joy in doing a certain kind of work in bringing an awareness to folks,” Deadwyler noted. “The responsibility is in telling the story tight, and in sharing the story appropriately. She was pissed. There’s a loss that is not ever returning. That is a visceral experience.” 

Read also: Jessica Chastain and Eddie Redmayne Attended Nursing School in Preparation for ‘The Good Nurse’

Deadwyler also talked about the significance of filming and other things it involves. 

“I don’t get to relinquish those feelings, because I’m a Black mother in America with a Black child,” she said. “This is something that persists. It was happening before I even got the movie, happening during the movie, happening after the movie.

“So, sharing this experience – dialoguing with folks about the whys, the hows, the whens, and the wheres – is just as significant as making the film. You want to get all of it right.” 

All Hard Work to Play Till-Mobley

All that they did lead to the fire behind Deadwyler’s eyes as you witnessed her turn from a grieving mother to an activist. But she confessed that her track to the character was not easy at first. 

“I did immediately go to the mourning because that’s all we know, right?” she recounts. 

“We know this very black-and-white binary understanding of her experience. We know that she made a significant choice that was the catalyst for the civil rights movement. And we saw the image of his body; we saw the various images of her in deep mourning.

“But you don’t necessarily see all of the triumphant awareness and the brilliance – and, specifically, the power that she began to stand in.” 

“This story focuses on Mamie’s POV. And we have to understand that even at the nadir of your life, in the darkest moment, you have will. You have the possibility to come out of that darkness and becomes something greater, to do something greater. There is power even there, in the darkness.” 

Till is currently available in theaters.

Read also: Kelly Ripa Expresses Thanks to Kathi Lee Gifford After Comments on Her New Memoir

Photo: EW