Algee Smith’s scenes in ‘The Hate U Give’ are incredibly difficult to watch, but as a ‘young, black man in America,’ the 23-year-old actor had no problem relating to his character’s tragic story.
Algee Smith, 23, plays a black teenager pulled over and murdered by a white cop in The Hate U Give — and he didn’t find it difficult to put himself in his character’s shoes. “I’m just like Khalil. That could happen to me at any given moment,” he told Hollywoodlife.com in an EXCLUSIVE interview at the film’s premiere. “I’m a young black man in America. I could be driving when that same situation happens. I instantly felt that connection with Khalil.” In the moving film, Algee is reaching into his car for a hairbrush when he is shot multiple times right in front of his childhood best friend Starr, played by Amandla Stenberg, 19. Although he’s only featured in a couple of scenes in the film before this tragic death, Algee’s screen time leaves a lasting impact on the audience and fuels the rest of the movie.
With such an important part to play, Algee was feeling the pressure to get it right. “I had to get over that and just let it live,” he admitted. “I had to do what I felt, not try to get it right. Let Khalil move through me.” And the young actor did just that, bringing the pivotal scene of Angie Thomas’ wildly successful book to life on the big screen. His final moments with his hands up outside of his car, and then bleeding out on the pavement beside Starr, will stick with audiences long after they leave the theater. Mirroring real moments experienced by murdered black men like Oscar Grant, Emmett Till and Michael Brown, the scene is difficult one to watch — but so very important.
So how did Algee feel when he saw these intense moments play out? “I still don’t get used to it,” he said. “I kind of get lost in that and forget it’s me. That’s when you know you did the job really good.”
Like most of the cast members, Khalil read the book this film was based on and understood the gravity of what he was portraying. And while he took the role seriously, he was motivated to be even better by his co-star. “Amandla is a force of nature. She’s someone that pushes you to do better,” he said, adding that she had the book in her hands so often that director George Tillman Jr. had to tell her to put it down. “That just shows you how dedicated she is. She just wants to get it right.”
And get it right, she did! The Hate U Give is an incredibly powerful film with an all-star cast that must not be missed. It hits select theaters on Oct. 5 and will be released worldwide on Oct. 19.