In the new film titled “Southside With You,”actors Tika Sumpter and Parker Sawyers star as Michelle and Barack Obama before they became first lady and president. The film, which is set in 1989, intimately follows the couple’s first date and tells the backstory of the two most powerful black people in America and how their love came to be.
It’s the ultimate love story and one that powerfully explores the experiences, struggles and romance the Obamas share. In an interview with HuffPost Live on Thursday, Sumpter spoke about what it was like portraying Michelle Obama onscreen and what she found empowering about the experience.
“When [Michelle Obama] walked out the door she had a voice and she had this confidence and charisma and she knew who she was,” Sumpter said. “I guess I left with more confidence from her and not dimming my light and not being afraid of coming to the table and telling my truth and saying what I feel about things.”
“I took so much strength from her,” Sumpter added. “She can dance with Beyonce one minute but then give this badass speech at the DNC that inspires us all.”
Sumpter is spot on: Michelle Obama’s dynamic personality is highly praised. However, it’s the experiences FLOTUS faced that make her relatable to so many including women of color in particular. In one stirring scene, Sumpter portrays a young Michelle who was Barack’s advisor at the time. In the scene, Michelle scolds Barack for acknowledging the potential for romance between them.
The brilliant young lawyer powerfully breaks down the barriers she constantly has to battle as a black woman working at a law firm led predominantly by white men, and why pursuing a relationship could potentially ruin her career.
“Even though it’s a love story, there’s depth of these characters,” Sumpter said before expanding on the scene’s message. “Just think in 1989 she was surrounded by men and mostly white men and she had to prove herself constantly. And this hotshot coming in from Harvard she wanted him to understand why she couldn’t date him. She was so focused on her career. I think anybody can relate to this situation even to this day in feeling like they have to prove themselves. I think it’s a very relevant conversation even till this day.”
To Sumpter, seeing the Obamas in the White House and enamored in love makes them the epitome of “#RelationshipGoals.”
“For me...seeing a black woman in the White House for the first time is very empowering,” she said. “I think they’re a powerful image in general and their authenticity reaches across the pond everywhere.”
Sawyers agreed and shared the same admiration for the first couple, their family and the leadership they have exemplified over the last eight years.
“What a time to be alive,” Sawyers said.
What a time, indeed. “Southside With You” releases in theaters everywhere on Friday, Aug. 26.