Jurnee Smollett, Denzel Whitaker and Nate Parker: Young Guns

Film writer and

director Kasi Lemmons once wrote: “Memory is a selection of images, some

elusive, others printed indelibly on the brain.” These eloquent words were

recited by 10-year old newcomer Jurnee Smollett in 1997’s unnervingly sexy

family drama Eve’s Bayou.

Both powerful

memories and words play a part in her most recent role as Samantha Booke - with

an "e" - in The Great Debaters.

Now 20, Jurnee shares the screen and several passions with her co-stars Denzel

Whitaker, 17, and Nate Parker, 28, in the film that promises to say it loud and

proud for future generations of moviegoers.

Playing the

middle has never been more gratifying than when you see this beautiful young starlet between these two strong-willed and incredibly articulate men. While the

film revolves around the power of words, several elements of The Great Debaters merge to create an

atmosphere of extraordinary tension and anxiety. The three emerging actors gave us some insight on the importance of the movie in a brief, yet enlightening, conversation.


What experience where you able to tap into while playing a role of someone

who’s the best?

Nate Parker: I was told by my mother that being good isn’t

good enough. Being the best is more than just beating someone at something. It’s

about being the best at any given point in your life. Even with all the

hardships of the world and our history, we still have to compete on an

intelligent level.

AllHipHop.com: After

working on this film as students at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, do you

believe that there’s a need for Historically Black Colleges?

Denzel Whitaker:

Of course there’s a need for Historically Black Colleges - they are an

impressive part of our history. At an

HBCU, you understand your contributions to society and you get the chance to

bond with the most gorgeous sistas in America.

Nate Parker:

Historically Black Colleges help to shine lights on so many intriguing stories

and people that are consistently swept under the rug. Think about it - don’t you want to know about

the people that inspired Malcolm X and Martin Luther King? There are so many

untold stories out there - this is just one of them.


Speaking of stories, has The Great

Debaters been received by both teens [and] college grads?

Jurnee Smollett:

We’ve screened this film for every generation there is, and especially for

younger audiences. And at every screening we’ve gotten standing ovations. What

I especially love about younger audiences is that they are brutally honest, and

they should be because they’re somewhat untouched and still genuine.

Denzel: Young

people need to see this film to educate and entertain themselves. We use words

on the battle field and still have the power and influence because be know that

our brains are the most important weapons.

AllHipHop.com: Jurnee,

tell us about how it felt to play the role of a woman who was “first”?

Jurnee: It’s

kinda like, when you’re doing something and really passionate about doing it,

you don’t think about it. You just do it. You’re not thinking about the fact

that you’re the first, you just want to do the best job that you can. I imagine

that it’s that way in lots of situations in your life. In everyday life, giving

up is not an option.In case you missed it, click here to check out AllHipHop.com's red carpet coverage at The Great Debaters premiere in NYC for interviews with Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker, Jurnee Smollett, Nate Parker and Denzel Whitaker