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Academy Award nominee Quvenzhané Wallis is no stranger to being in front of the camera. But her latest role is a view of the child star fans have never seen before. 

Wallis is one of the stars Apple TV+’s newest soon-to-be-hit show Swagger. Inspired by the experiences of Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant, the 10-episode drama explores the world of youth basketball, the players, their families, and the coaches who walk the fine line between dreams and ambition, opportunism and corruption against the backdrop of coming of age as Black teens in America. 

Wallis, 18, joins an ensemble cast of stars including O’Shea Jackson Jr., Isaiah Hill, Caleel Harris, and Tristan “Mack” Wilds among others. She takes on the role of Crystal, a young, top female basketball player going toe-to-toe with some of the city’s best male basketball talent.

“Crystal is a powerhouse. She’s a powerful young Black woman and she doesn’t let anything completely stop her,” Wallis says of the role. “She doesn’t give up. She may have struggles like everybody else in the world but she takes the time to work through them and heal from them and just keep moving forward.”

Wallis turned heads at last night’s premiere event for the Apple drama, as fans were surprised to see her looking so beautiful and grown-up. Naturally, it’s hard to imagine anything other than a diminutive curly-haired cutie when you hear that Quvenzhané Wallis is about to hit the carpet. But she stunned photographers when she stepped out in a satin leopard-print suit and crop-top with impeccably-done loose-wave hair cascading down her back. She’s not exactly a little girl anymore. 

But, the challenges of taking on a more grown-up role are no sweat for this former child star. With an Oscar nomination already under her belt and almost a decade of acting experience already, taking on this role was simply old hat. 

“When I was younger, I guess it was different because I was on set dancing and cutting cartwheels all over the place,” she recalled of growing up on set. “I’m kind of still dancing, but I’m just not doing the cartwheels and stuff. But my personality is still there.”

“The family I had on set made it so much fun,” she added. “But other than just growing and maturing a bit, it’s pretty much the same thing. I had castmates around my age so we were just goofing around…even the adults, we were all having fun.” 

Wallis had to keep that upbeat energy when training for her role as a high school basketball protegé. Though she casually played basketball with her older brothers in her younger days, she had to step into what she quickly realized was new territory when becoming Crystal. 

“I kind of played when I was younger, but it didn’t really count. Especially when I went to do the training, I realized that no, I had no experience and I just had a lot to learn,” she laughed. “But  it was a challenge I was willing to take.”

Wallis says that assistance from her brothers and staying in character while training helped her hone her on-court skills.

“When I was training, I was Crystal. I took her drive and determination and applied it, worked through it, and built her. I built the swagger for her, how she is and how she plays.”

You can catch Swagger on Apple TV+ starting tomorrow. 

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