Isaiah (Kofi Siriboe) and Stevie (Yootha Wong-Loi-Sing) meet cute at an art exhibition in room in romantic drama “Really Love.” (Courtesy photos)

By Nadine Matthews
Special to the AFRO

In the tradition of stories of young love such as Love Jones and Love and Basketball, Director and Co-writer Angel Kristi Williams and Writer Felicia Pride, a Baltimore native, bring us the romantic drama Really Love. The writers and members of the cast recently spoke to the AFRO during a virtual press event.

Really Love stars Kofi Siriboe (Queen Sugar, Girls Trip) as painter Isaiah Maxwell and Dutch actress newcomer Yootha Wong-Loi-Sing (Love Is__), as Stevie Richmond, a Howard grad and Georgetown law student. The characters are inexorably drawn to each other when they meet at an art exhibition at the opening of the film.

Set in Washington D.C., Siriboe’s character is fighting to have his talent recognized in an art world he is conflicted about joining. He strives for the Holy Grail of the art world, a solo show, something much harder for Black artists to achieve. It’s this ambition that ultimately becomes a stumbling block in his relationship with Stevie. Pride states, “The character of Isaiah was always an artist. It was a way to explore the plight of artists who have dreams and how those bump up against wanting to be in love wanting to be in a relationship, but what happens when you always put the art first.”

Pride, who has written for Grey’s Anatomy and Queen Sugar as well as her own critically acclaimed short film tender, explained her love of writing about romantic relationships. “Love is such fertile ground for us to explore facets of our humanity. It’s a way to show our vulnerability and the stuff that we bring into relationships.” She also looks at the genre as a pathway to revealing other areas of human life. “It’s not just about romantic love. It’s about love of self, love of art, of family and community and love of dreams.”

Michael Ealy (Think Like A Man) plays a mentor of Isaiah’s, an established artist who has fought many of the battles Isaiah is currently waging. Uzo Aduba (Orange Is The New Black) also appears, as a gallerist and champion of Isaiah’s work. Naturi Naughton (Power) plays Stevie’s gregarious cousin Cecily. Mack Wilds (Red Tails) and Jade Eshete (Billions) play loyal friends of the couple.

Beyond the gorgeous cast and the engaging story, Really Love offers much more for the eyes and ears in the art and music showcased. Paintings by up-and-comers such as Chanel Compton, Gerald Lovell, Ronald Jackson and many more, punctuate the drama. “We wanted to take the opportunity to position younger, emerging artists who now since we’ve made the film, have catapulted, so that has been a beautiful surprise,” Williams stated.

The soundtrack features the likes of Ari Lennox, Summer Walker, Meshell Ndegeocello, Sun Ra, and many others.

Wilds discussed why Really Love is an important film for people to see. “It’s about what love really looks and feels like. It’s not the fairytale and love stories of yesteryear. This film gives the world a look at the beauty of feeling and experiencing love while showing love is not perfect, linear, or always wrapped with a neat little bow.”

Stevie is conflicted about whether she actually wants to pursue a law career but is heavily pressured by her staunchly bourgeois parents, played by Blair Underwood (Quantico) and the late Suzzanne Douglas (The Inkwell) to pursue a particular type of life.

Underwood and Douglass masterfully carry out a crucial meet the parents dinner scene that lays bare the root of the inner turmoil of the main characters. Williams explains, “It was very deliberate. Both of these characters who were in love were their parents and we really wanted to contrast how they were different and how the parents’ influence affected how they each showed up in the relationship.”

Siriboe reflected on the similarity between challenges he faced himself as an actor and his character in the face of naysayers. “There have been different points in my life when I was not encouraged and I had to keep pushing forward. It comes back to believing in yourself and believing in your vision and making sure you also have the right people around you to big you up when necessary.”

Wong-Loi-Sing added, “You have to figure out for yourself what you can do to make it work. No one else is responsible for your life; only you. So it has everything to do with your commitment and your willingness to take those leaps and let go of insecurities

Really Love, MACRO Financed and Co-Produced, is now streaming on Netflix.

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