Filmmaker Chinonye Chukwu was honored with the opportunity to present Danielle Deadwyler with her 2023 ESSENCE Black Women In Hollywood Award. Having worked together on the highly acclaimed film TILL, the two had the chance to really get to know each other during production – both on-screen as well as on a personal level.
Chukwu began her speech by categorizing everything that the one of the evening’s honoree’s represented. “Danielle Deadwyler is not only an actor, a formally trained poet, and a visual artist,” she said. “Danielle Deadwyler is a vessel. She brings a calling upon her ancestors to whatever medium she engages in. She surrenders, she transcends.”
During the presentation, the acclaimed director spoke about her admiration for Deadwyler prior to casting her as civil rights catalyst and mother of Emmett Till; Mamie Till Mobley. “Danielle so thoroughly and exquisitely doing and living in the humanities of each of the characters she played,” Chukwu stated.
“She didn’t play them, she embodied them,” she added. “It was as if she was magnetic energy that drew us to the depth in her eyes, the complexities of her gestures, the nuanced subtext on her pauses. While the The Harder They Fall star is exceptional as an actor, it’s her character in reality that she should truly be heralded for.
“What I haven’t spoken about, is Danielle as a person,” Chukwu said at the Fairmont Century Plaza stage. “For the past few years, I’ve had the honor of witnessing and experiencing an incredible human being who is so detached from ego, and is so abundantly full of humor and radical joy.”
“Danielle Deadwyler is an artist, she is an auteur, she is a star in every sense of the word,” she added before introducing a montage featuring the Spelman graduate. “She has delivered one of the greatest performances in cinema history.”