Dubbed a female version of “Braveheart,” the film is directed by Gina Prince-Blythewood (“Love & Basketball”) and written by Dana Stevens. Davis plays General Nanisca, who led the all-women warriors in defense of the West African kingdom Dahomey in present-day Benin during the 18th and 19th centuries. Lashana Lynch, John Boyega, and Thuso Mbedu also star.
In the trailer, Davis leads a tribe as white settlers arrive in Africa. Nanisca (Davis) warns that the colonizers won’t stop until they own the entirety of Africa, leading King Ghezo (Boyega) to ask if starting a war is worth it.
“I offer you a choice: fight or we die,” Davis as Nanisca states. “We fight for our ancestors, we fight for the future.”
Davis, who also produces the film, called the role “transformative” when speaking with Vanity Fair. “There’s always a vision you have for your career, but there are very few roles as an actress of color,” Davis said. “Dark skin with a wide nose and big lips. I’m just going to continue to say it. Those stories are extraordinarily limited…It is hard to be an artist, hard to be a Black artist, and even harder to be a Black female artist.”
The previous depictions of the all-women Agojie warriors, also known as the Amazons, portrayed the female soldiers as “beasts” and “mannish.” Davis and director Prince-Blythewood sought instead to bring the authenticity of the story to the big screen instead of racial stereotypes.
“These women were fascinating and didn’t need to be embellished or glossy,” Prince-Blythewood told Vanity Fair. “I wanted it to be real and visceral and raw. We didn’t want to show them as just one thing — badass women who killed. They also laughed and loved and cried. We wanted to show their full humanity, not just the cool part that that would look good in a trailer.”
Actress Davis enrolled in martial arts and weaponry training, plus weight training and sprinting for four hours a day, five days a week. A first look at the film featured Davis’ muscular embodiment of the Agojie general.
Check out Davis’ full transformation in the trailer below.
“The Woman King” premieres September 16.