6 FILMS, INCLUDING THE BIRTH OF A NATION (2016).
Aja Naomi King’s movie ascendancy as the slave girl Cherry in Nate Parker’s blazing battle cry, The Birth of a Nation (based on the Nat Turner rebellion of 1831), is a complete boomerang from the role that made her television rep. After an assortment of credits in film (“Positive Polly” in Whit Stillman’s Damsels in Distress and Rosa in the underseen comedy The Rewrite) and in prime-time series such as Emily Owens, M.D. and The Blacklist, King was whisked aboard the mother ship of Shondaland’s How to Get Away with Murder, starring the inviolable Viola Davis. Shondaland TV is not so much a place as a quantum state in which dialogue, events, character reversals, and shocking twists occur at speeds unknown to mundane humankind. King’s Michaela Pratt has been in the mad thick of it for three seasons, and the part of Cherry required a rapid deceleration and divestment of contemporary traits to fit seamlessly into the time, place, and tragic situation of southern slavery. This King did so artfully that you don’t see the art, only an eloquent act of being.