Jurnee Smollett says she'd play Black Canary 'again in a heartbeat'
The Birds of Prey and Lovecraft Country actress spoke to EW for an intimate Women Who Kick Ass panel, part of EW's Fandom Week.
Although she couldn't confirm any sequels yet, Smollett told EW, "It's no secret how much I loved playing Black Canary, and [I was] so honored to take on that mantle. I would absolutely do it again if given a chance."
Coincidentally, near the top of the actress' bucket list is working with 87eleven, Chad Stahelski's action design company that's behind films like the John Wick franchise, Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2, and more.
When the topic of fronting her own blockbuster action movie came up, the actress responded, "Hell yeah."
"I love the 87eleven team and Chad. I would love to actually work with Chad, that's for sure on my bucket list," Smollett said. "He has such a gift for telling the narrative through these really inventive action sequences. The chance to work with 87eleven and do these things, yes, absolutely, absolutely."
The drama, based on Matt Ruff's 2016 novel, follows three Black Chicagoans traveling across Jim Crow America in the 1950s; Korean War vet Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors), his uncle George Freeman (Courtney B. Vance), and their friend Letitia “Leti” Lewis (Smollett) search for Atticus’ father, Montrose (The Wire’s Michael K. Williams), while battling Lovecraftian monsters and racism along the way.
Smollett said it was deliberate on showrunner Misha Green's part to make the series visually different, especially with renewed conversations about the lack of professionals in Hollywood who know how to light dark-skinned actors or do Black women's hair and makeup.
"It was very intentional on Misha's part but on the DP, the director, it was very intentional to make sure that the look and feel of the show was different than what we've seen," Smollett said. "There's a scale, there's a scope in the way it's shot that unfortunately, we haven't experienced on television with people of color, especially in this genre."
She went on to reveal that before taking the role, she hadn't done much horror or sci-fi because the only part she was offered in those projects was "the black chick who dies on page 33."
Smollett was waiting for creators like Green and Jordan Peele, who are both executive producers on Lovecraft Country, to center Black stories, and for people like Margot Robbie and Birds of Prey director Cathy Yan to celebrate diverse stories.
"It hasn't been until now, having people like Misha Green, or Jordan Peele, who have stepped into this genre and had these radical reimaginings of centering our stories within the genre," she added. "It takes a Margot Robbie and a Cathy Yan, being like, 'We want an all-girl gang, and yo, let's just ask the person we think that's the best for the project.' Times are changing. It's exciting because for an artist like myself, I get so bored."
In discussing what it means to be a kick ass woman, Smollett reflected on her previous characters that exemplified the term not only physically, but mentally as well. In fact, Smollett highlights one of her most beloved characters, Friday Night Light's Jess Merriweather, as someone with resolve and inner confidence — a.k.a., a kick ass woman.
"I loved her tenacity. She hounded the coach," Smollett said. "She was like, 'OK, I'm going to be humble, I'm gonna clean the locker rooms, I'm going to deal with these jock jokes and stuff like that, because I've got a target and my target is I want the coach to mentor me. ... And that is the confidence she was able to walk into that space, being like, 'I belong here, whether or not you want me here. I don't need your approval to be here.""
Birds of Prey (2020 movie)