Michael Cherrie shines in Netflix’s Shirley

TT actor Michael Cherrie at the premier of Netflix's Shirley in Los Angeles at the Egyptian Theatre, Hollywood, on March 19. -
TT actor Michael Cherrie at the premier of Netflix's Shirley in Los Angeles at the Egyptian Theatre, Hollywood, on March 19. -

ON March 22 Netflix released the biographical drama film Shirley, which stars US actress Regina King as Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman to be elected to the US Congress and who ran for president in the early 1970s.

The film features Chisholm’s husband, Conrad, played by veteran Trinidad and Tobago actor Michael Cherrie in a riveting performance.

Cherrie and King are part of a formidable cast which includes the late Lance Reddick (Fringe, John Wick franchise), Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow, Empire), and Lucas Hedges (Lady Bird, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri).

The film was written and directed by John Ridley, who penned the 1999 black comedy war film Three Kings, and the 2013 biographical drama 12 Years a Slave, which earned him an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

For Shirley, Ridley tackled the 1972 presidential run of Chisholm, who was born in Brooklyn, New York, to immigrant parents of Bajan and Guyanese descent.

She was the first black candidate for a major party nomination for president of the US and the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

She lost the nomination to Senator George McGovern from South Dakota and he would lose the elections to incumbent Republican president Richard Nixon.

Michael Cherrie, left, in a scene from Netflix's Shirley which begins streaming on March 22. -

Even viewers unfamiliar with Chisholm’s history would be aware that the US did not have a black female president in 1972, so the outcome of the new film is obvious from before the opening credits.

But Ridley does a commendable job of making the journey interesting and there is a brightness and energy to the scenes and dialogue that make for engrossing viewing.

King won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for 2018 romantic drama If Beale Street Could Talk, and may earn some award buzz for this role as well.

She is a tour de force as Chisholm and portrays a woman with assertiveness, intelligence, wit and lots of heart and humanity.

As she deals with a David-versus-Goliath political race, family issues and even an assassination attempt, she turns for support to her husband Conrad, a private investigator who migrated to the US from Jamaica.

The couple’s relationship is the core of the film and King and Cherrie share a beautifully warm chemistry and a marital bond that is not without its cracks.

Conrad is affable, comedic, sweet and supportive and Cherrie manages the Jamaican accent well, some Trini inflections notwithstanding.

He does his best work in the quiet moments alone at home where the weight of the dutiful husband’s position is brought to bear.

In one scene Conrad speaks about Shirley wanting “a shadow of a man” and it is a masterclass of nuanced and subdued emotion.

His acting experience of more than three decades shone through in this and other dramatic scenes. Cherrie spoke about the role in a media release.

TT actor Michael Cherrie, left, embraces US actress Regina King at Netflix's Shirley Los Angeles premiere in Los Angeles. -

“This is an important piece of historical storytelling told through cinema that promises to entertain, educate and inspire. It is a story of possibility and ‘faith in the fight’ to the very end.

“Shirley Chisholm’s work and campaign for the Democratic nomination of the 1972 presidential elections opened the political door to women and people of colour in the US. It was such an honour to be invited to work on this.”

With more than 150 million Netflix subscribers, Cherrie’s layered performance will be reaching a massive global audience, quite the achievement for a Trini/ Caribbean actor. And I predict that after Shirley. Hollywood producers will have him on their radar for future projects. Shirley is currently showing on Netflix and is rated PG-13.

About Michael Cherrie

Cherrie has spent over 30 years honing his craft in countless productions. His work has been recognised with various honours.

He won the Best Supporting Actor Cacique Award for excellence in theatre in 1995 for his work playing Batricio in Derek Walcott’s The Joker of Seville and was also nominated for the Best Actor Cacique on several occasions.

He received a Pioneer in Film Award in 2013 from the TT Film Festival. His theatre credits in the US include A Streetcar named Desire (Pablo), Lobby Hero (William), The Three Sisters (Ferapont), A Selfish Sacrifice (an adaptation of A Doll’s House) playing Balogun, and The Madwoman of Chaillot (The Waiter) – all at the Denver Center Theatre Company; Othello (Othello) and The Merry Wives of Windsor (Ford) at the Houston Shakespeare Festival; Antony and Cleopatra (Mardian) and The Comedy of Errors (Pinch/Balthazar) at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival; Romeo and Juliet (Benvolio) at the Colorado Springs/Theatreworks Shakespeare Festival and many more.

Michael Cherrie stars in Netflix’s Shirley which begins streaming on March 22. -

He has a bachelor’s degree in film production with theatre arts from UWI, St Augustine, and is an assistant professor of acting at the University of TT’s Academy for the Performing Arts.

He is a member of Actors’ Equity Association of the US, the union of professional actors and stage managers.

Cherrie has also been an avid advocate for the development of the local film industry, and most recently supported FilmTT and Hyphen8 during its two-week intensive actors’ workshop in January this year, FilmTT said. Information courtesy FilmTT


"Michael Cherrie shines in Netflix’s Shirley"

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