King and her cast assemble for a virtual TIFF press conference about her likely Oscar contender.

Regina King is poised for a major run through Oscar season with her feature directorial debut, and she had to overcome major obstacles — including a global pandemic — to honor the Black men at the center of her timely story.

Speaking at a virtual press conference ahead of One Night in Miami's North American premiere at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival, King — already an Oscar-winning actress — explained that she felt inspired to (safely) finish the film amid the spread of COVID-19 in honor of the Black Lives Matter movement.

"We were going to push [the release] back because we were short.... three scenes [at the start of the outbreak], and because the things that are being discussed in the film are just as relevant now as they were 60 years ago, that was the reason [for continuing]," said King while surrounded by writer Kemp Powers and cast members Kingsley Ben-Adir, Leslie Odom, Jr., Eli Goree, and Aldis Hodge. "We didn’t know what the filmmaking protocols were going to be. A lot of us had already gone on to other projects, and our projects had been canceled because of COVID. Luckily I was able to be editing while we were waiting to see what the climate of the world was going to be, and then Ahmaud Arbery happened. And then George Floyd happened. And then Breonna Taylor happened."

King observed that seeing people "explode" in defiance of police brutality cemented the need to get the film — which follows Black icons like Muhammad Ali/Cassius Clay (Goree), Malcolm X (Ben-Adir), Sam Cooke (Odom, Jr.), and Jim Brown (Hodge) across a single evening as they take stock of their roles in the fight for racial equality in the 1960s — in front of audiences as soon as possible.

"We were now in this powder keg moment. [I talked with] producers on the film, and we were like, 'We’ve got to figure out a way to get this out now,'" she continued, adding that she phoned Odom, Jr. and Goree, the two principal cast members who were slated to appear in the unfinished scenes, to gauge their interest in returning to complete their work earlier than anticipated. "To hear the two of them be on the same page, that’s all we needed to know to do what we needed to do to make sure we keep them safe. We ended up with 60 crew members who tested negative for COVID and were able to make it happen. People believed that this needed to be out now."

One Night in Miami is currently slated for release via Amazon Studios in the near future.

Follow EW for the latest news, reviews, and more from the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival.

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