Actress/Producer Reina King, Director John Ridley and Actress/Producer Regina King attend Netflix “Shirley” Los Angeles premiere. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Netflix)

Oscar award-winning actress Regina King stars in the new Netflix film “Shirley” about the first Black Congresswoman, Shirley Chisholm, who was also the first Black woman to seek the Democratic nomination for president in 1972. Directed by John Ridley, Regina and her sister Reina serve as two of the film’s producers.

“Shirley” is a passion project that the Kings’ have worked to bring to fruition for nearly two decades. The Sentinel spoke with Reina King who also played Chisholm’s sister, Muriel St. Hill, about her dual role on the production.

“Sometimes the producer title is just the name that you see on the credit, and they’re never around. Regina and I are the opposite of that. I’m literally boots on the ground with every project that our company works on. We’re very hands-on with all aspects of production. From the development to getting this project on its feet, I’m on set every day, dealing with every department to make sure everything stays on track” she said.

“So it was definitely interesting, doing double duty and wearing two hats when [director] John [Ridley] asked me to take on the role of Muriel. It was quite entertaining for myself and others, I’m sure.”

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“Shirley” highlights the inner workings of Chisholm’s campaign including an intense moment during the 1972 Democratic National Convention where Congressmen Ron Dellums (actor Dorian Missick) and Walter Fauntroy (actor André Holland) reneged on the plan to release their delegates to Chisholm and instead gave them to Senator George McGovern.

Reflecting on that pivotal point in the film, Missick said, “It’s tough because oftentimes we look at friendship, as you have to “ride or die” for your friend until the end but at a certain point, Ron felt like his ideas weren’t going to be able to be addressed if he continued supporting Shirley. So that’s what ultimately ended up happening but they were able to remain friends.”

With 2024 being such an important election yet, Missick shares what he hopes audiences take away from the film. “’Shirley’ highlights how much power and influence local politics have on the national scene. I hope the film encourages people to get involved, locally, to make sure that their issues are addressed because that eventually makes an impact on the national political scene.”

From left are Christina Jackson, U.S. Representative Barbara Lee, and Regina King at Netflix’s ‘Shirley’ Los Angeles premiere at The Egyptian Theatre Hollywood. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Netflix)

He added, “Oftentimes people just show up for the presidential election and tend not to vote for the people who affect them directly. So, looking at the political system through this film, people will understand that they need to participate locally, just as much as they do nationally.”

Actress Christina Jordan plays Barbara Lee, Chisholm’s protégé, who worked alongside Chisholm during the 1972 presidential campaign and facilitated an introduction between Chisholm and The Black Panther Party.

Lee would go on to become Ron Dellums chief of staff and later his congressional successor when she won his 9th District seat in 1998. Jordan, who had the opportunity to speak with Congresswoman Barbara Lee and get “extra details” outside of the script shares her thoughts on the sudden turn of events in the film.

“I fervently believe had Shirley been allowed to debate on television, she would have garnered way more support. But I think Barbra getting [Dellum’s Congressional seat] was a beautiful, full-circle moment because Barbara kept pushing, she kept going. And now 50 years later we get to see the beginning of her journey,” said Jordan.

Following a special screening of “Shirley,” Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass shared these sentiments about Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm as well as Congresswoman Barbara Lee.

“Shirley Chisholm was a trailblazer for women everywhere and an icon in American history. If there isn’t a seat at the table, there are generations of women now ready to bring their own chair, ready to walk among the shattered glass left in Ms. Chisholm’s legendary wake and continue to make change” said Bass.

Mayor Karen Bass and U.S. Representative Barbara Lee attend Netflix’s ‘Shirley’ Los Angeles premiere at The Egyptian Theatre Hollywood. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Netflix)

“I’ve had the honor to serve among leaders mentored personally by Ms. Chisholm – including the progressive champion Congresswoman Barbara Lee – and I’ve seen firsthand how the torch can be passed on as the struggle continues to define progress in this country. Thank you to Netflix for lifting up the story of a too-often forgotten American shero” added the mayor.

Concluding, Reina King shares why it was so important for she and Regina to bring Chisholm’s film to life.

“We’ve been so disheartened by how many people don’t know who Shirley Chisholm is. The fact that it wasn’t taught to me in my U.S. history class. You talked about Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and Sojourner Truth, that was about it.

“When Shirley wasn’t just the first Black woman, but the first woman to run for president! That’s historical and that should be known across the country and in the world,” said King.

“As well as what Shirley stood for, it wasn’t even about her winning. It was about her being the voice of people who did not have a voice during that period of time. And once again, it’s 2024. And we’re still in that place.

“If you want to have some type of say in how things work in your country, involve yourself, be active, be activated, and vote.”

King concluded by saying, “We wanted to honor Shirley’s legacy because she should be up there with the greats that we’re discussing all the time. We want to make sure that we set her forth on the world stage.”