For EBONY’s August 2016 issue, actress Tika Sumpter spoke about her upcoming biographical romance film “Southside With You.” The story follows Barack Obama (Parker Sawyers), then an associate at a Chicago law firm, and Michelle Robinson (Sumpter), a second-year associate, on their first date during the summer of 1989.

“This film is a love letter and a lesson to never take people at face value, look at them now,” Sumpter said. She gives us the scoop on how she and Sawyers were chosen for the roles, and the magic that happened on set.

Take a look at a web exclusive from our magazine interview:


EBONY: Tell us about how casting you specifically for this role came about.

Tika Sumpter: Well, as a producer for the film, it was brought to me as a synopsis, and I loved the perspective of the idea of them being younger. I encouraged Richard Tanning to write the actual script, and once he wrote it I was like “wow, this is happening.” At the time, my agent was Charles King, and when he read it, he was completely more than stunned. He mentioned the many things he reads a day, and that this was a magical piece that I should be a part of. I was encouraged to make this thought a reality, and so we moved forward rather quickly. We found the right people, got the financing and made it happen with about 17-18 days to shoot. The process was so intense, we had to mentally prepare, do our homework, and sometimes rehearse on our own; everybody gave this their all.

EBONY: What was the selection process in choosing Parker Sawyers to play Mr. Obama? 

TS: Aw man, it was just so interesting to be on the other side. Richard Tanning always pushed me to cast as Michelle, so it was more so about finding my Barack. We looked for the charisma of Barack, the quarks, and his total essence. Parker sent in an audition tape, but it was too much of an imitation of Barack. Our casting director, Twinky Bird, suggested giving him the notes to tweak it. Once we gave him our thoughts, he totally got it. It was like “hire him, this is our Barack.”

EBONY: How’d the chemistry spark with you two on set?

TS: Oh my God, so he came to rehearse in L.A. which was our very first encounter. Let me tell you, it was so easy, like we were meant to be. We felt it, and it was such an amazing feeling. That’s often hard to find when you first get a jump on filming. We just truly want to send the Obamas some loving, especially right now, it’s such a critical time in their last couple of months. We also want to give inspirations to those people falling in love, keep going.

Catch the film in theaters nationwide beginning August 26.

Read more of the interview in EBONY’s August issue, in stores and on newstands now!