Jahi Winston is a star on the rise. The actor stars in ‘Queen & Slim’ and has a new film going to Sundance. Jahi spoke EXCLUSIVELY with HL about the role of Junior, what he learned from Lena Waithe, and more.
Jahi Winston plays Junior in the critically-acclaimed film Queen & Slim, alongside Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith. The 16-year-old actor first discovered the project while scrolling through Twitter. “I just was fascinated by the idea, and I just thought it would be really cool to be a part of that,” Jahi told HollywoodLife. “Then a few weeks later, I got the breakdown for Junior. Once I read the script, I was immediately fascinated by the poetry and the way that it sort of intertwined poetry and real words while it was still grounded in authenticity and honesty. Junior, I felt that his purpose to serve the story was really necessary for everyone to see. No matter how controversial or whatever it may be, it was necessary for him to be in there. So I just wanted to center myself in him and really do the best that I could.”
In addition to the love story at the center of Queen & Slim, the film tells a powerful tale of police brutality and race. For Jahi, helping tell such a relevant story was the opportunity of a lifetime. “This is the kind of work that I’ve always wanted to do,” he said. “I think that it’s been a little challenging sort of trying to find the right projects to take on, but it doesn’t get any better than this, so I’m just so grateful to be a part of it. I think that I want to use my voice to reflect the times that we live in and sort of reflect where we are and how far we have left to go.”
Over the course of his experience working on Queen & Slim, Jahi admitted that he learned the power of stability and revealed the most important thing he learned from Lena Waithe, who wrote the screenplay for the film and served as an executive producer. “I think it’s very important to have stability and to have stamina,” Jahi continued. “I did a very intense scene and to have the energy to keep trying to pull from a very intense place and to align my energy for however long I needed to was difficult at first. Also, everything that I do has to be grounded in a place of creativity and honesty and authenticity. I think that’s the biggest thing I learned from Lena, from watching the film and watching her direct on set. Everything she does is grounded in how people really think, how people really feel, and what people really want to say, and what she wants to say. So that’s the biggest thing. I really want to just use authenticity in every way.”
In addition to Queen & Slim, Jahi has a new movie coming out in 2020 titled Charm City Kings. The film was accepted into the Sundance Film Festival and Jahi will be attending the 2020 event for the first time. “It’s centered around a young boy in west Baltimore who is fascinated by this biker group called The Midnight Clique, and he meets a man that really sort of brings back a lot about who he is and his past,” Jahi explained. “They see each other and reflect in each other’s eyes. It’s about his journey and his coming of age and really reflecting on who he is.”
The new decade is on the horizon and one of Jahi’s goals for 2020 is to make his voice known. “I definitely want to really center myself and establish myself as a voice in the world, not just in Hollywood,” Jahi told HollywoodLife. “I don’t just want to be an actor or a singer or whatever. I want to be an artist and I want to have established my voice. I want to have moved the culture in a positive way. I just want to be an artist of my generation and generations to come. I want to do music. I really, really want to do music. I want to have established my voice in music, in activism, but mostly in the world really. I just want to have been introduced fully.”