Sundance 2017 Exclusive: Chanté Adams Talks Roxanne Roxanne

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Sundance 2017 Exclusive: Chanté Adams Talks Roxanne Roxanne
Posted by Jacqueline Coley

February 2, 2017

Fresh off her Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Performance at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival sat down with Chanté Adams to chat about her role in Writer/Director Michael Larnell’s sophomore effort Roxanne Roxanne. We discussed everything from her debut casting to the breakneck filming schedule for her role as hip-hop pioneer Roxanne Shante.

The most feared battle emcee in early-’80s NYC was a fierce teenager from the Queensbridge projects with the weight of the world on her shoulders. At age 14, hustling the streets to provide for her family, Roxanne Shanté was well on her way to becoming a hip-hop legend. Also included in the cast are Mahershala Ali, Nia Long, Elvis Nolasco, Kevin Phillips, and Shenell Edmonds.

Larnell conducted an extensive search to find his lead actress, but with only days left until the start of principal photography, he was still searching. It was a whirlwind from Adams’ casting to the world premiere in Park City but none of that stress showed on screen. Adams delivered a powerhouse performance that appears to be just the start of a very promising career.

On her last minute casting: You only had a week and a half from being cast to shooting how hard was it to prepare. I lived on YouTube. I watched every single video on the Internet I could find, every interview or performance. I just wanted to make I got her down. To me, it wasn’t just about what she sounded like on the records I wanted to really know how she spoke.

On the woman behind her starring role: Did you meet Roxanne before filming?
Yeah, and she was there [on set], not all the time but she was there. I wouldn’t really ask her about what she said here or there, but more about how she felt – what details she remembers from that time or that person. The movie is her story, but it has it’s own feel, so I wanted her more to give me the texture and feel of whatever time or scene we were filming.

Preparing to portray a Hip-Hop Icon: What was harder learning the raps or dealing with the more emotional sides of the story?
I mean I was not thinking about that. I just had to do what I had in front of me that day. I couldn’t really think about what was on the next day or how hard it was. I had a lot to do, and I just had focus on what was in front of me that day. It was they only way not get overwhelmed.

Any funny memories from set? No really funny [per say] because as I said it, was a lot of work but I do remember the department store scene. I did the scene how I thought you would steal from a department store, and Roxanne was there as she said: “we need to do it again because she’s not stealing right.” She basically came over to me and taught me the correct way to steal.

On the more difficult parts of the shooting schedule – A lot of the film you have to live her life at a time that was very difficult. Her love interest and your co-star Mahershala Ali plays an abusive boyfriend. Did you talk to her about this? I mean she definitely told me as much I could about herself, but I never asked about [that] it seemed too invasive. It was obviously a very difficult time in her life and don’t think it was my place to ask her to relieve it. Anytime I had a question about the how’s or details she was there, and that was enough.

On her co-stars – You share the screen with some incredible actors, Mahershla, and Nia Long. Did you find it intimidating? Did you ask for advice?
I did talk [acting] a lot with both but especially with Nia, and she was such a fellow actor. She was just reassuring. She just said “You got this, You know what to do” She didn’t give pointers she just lead by example and tried to make sure that I felt comfortable. “She said you are here because you deserve it, so don’t forget that.” Mahershala was great too. Such a great guy.

What was on your playlist while filming? Any other classic Hip-hop tracks?
You know so much of it was the rehearsal. It was mostly listened to whatever track that was going to be in a scene. I mean, I can still rap all of Roxanne’s Revenge by heart and you know I haven’t said before this, but I listened to her track Independent Woman, a lot. That was what I would listen to before a scene. I felt it spoke to who she was as a person.

It may have been the playlist, Director, or the cast but Roxanne Roxanne rode the buzz before the Sundance Film Festival to very positive reviews and a 3 million dollar acquisition by Neon Films. Keep and eye out for Roxanne Roxanne in theaters and online later in 2017.

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