Regina King Got Samara Joy to Make an Original Song for ‘Shirley’ With Help From LaKeith Stanfield

“Shirley” star Regina King said jazz singer Samara Joy was her No. 1 pick as the artist to craft an original song for her Netflix film. That track ultimately became “Why I’m Here,” and it was LaKeith Stanfield who first put the actress and producer onto the Grammy winner’s music.

“Love her. I was introduced to Samara Joy when I was shooting ‘The Harder They Fall.’ LaKeith Stanfield put her on my radar,” King told TheWrap. “I was like, ‘Oh, my God, this girl.’ I did a Samara Joy dive — all of her videos and everything. So when I was promoting ‘One Night in Miami,’ there was one of those questions like, ‘Who are the people that inspire you’ or ‘Who are you listening to?’ I can’t remember exactly what the question was, but Samara was at the top of my mind. I guess the interview had gotten back to her. It had gotten back to me that it had gotten back to her, so I feel like she and I were kind of connected.”

King said the conversation around working with Joy came up when she and her sister, fellow producer and costar Reina King, had just finished “Shirley,” which chronicles the journey of the first Black congresswoman Shirley Chisholm’s run for President of the United States.

“The universe was working. We never knew we were going to see why some years later,” King said. “When we finished the film, Reina and I were like, ‘We have to have an original song for this film,’ and Reina said, ‘What is the girl? What is her name? You always talk about her?’ And I was like, ‘Oh my God, yes, she’d be perfect.'”

She continued: “We reached out to her and Samara was like, ‘Absolutely, as long as I have my producer.’ PJ and Samara wrote a song. They watched the film, and they wrote a song that I feel like fully encapsulates the journey that we go on as we’re learning about Shirley Chisholm.”

Samara Joy, LaKeith Stanfield (Getty Images)
Samara Joy, LaKeith Stanfield (Getty Images)

King also shared that she feels her and Joy’s creative collaboration is reminiscent of the relationship Chisholm and Barbara Lee shared in Lee’s rise as a politician.

“It just occurred to me that here is a woman that Shirley — when you think about the Shirley Chisholm-Barbara Lee relationship, a woman that paved the way for her,” King explained. “Here was an opportunity in some ways. Samara and myself being able to work on this together kind of mirrors a bit of the Shirley Chisholm and Barbara Lee story.”

“I love Samara,” King reiterated. “I may be biased, but I feel like when that song starts, and her voice comes in, she is the voice of not just Shirley, but the voice of a people, an American people.”

The Netflix film, which was written and directed by “American Crime” creator John Ridley, is currently in theaters on a limited release before streaming on March 22. The full “Shirley” cast includes the King sisters, Lance Reddick, Terrence Howard, Lucas Hedges, Michael Cherrie, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Christina Jackson, André Holland, Dorian Missick, Amirah Vann, W. Earl Brown and Brad James.

Check out the original song, below.

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