We are less than one month away from the theater debut of The Hate U Give. Based on Angie Thomas’ young adult novel by the same name which has drawn a lot of attention for being a timely and empowering story, the film, directed by George Tillman Jr., is bringing that story to life on screen with a cast you’ll be keeping up with from now on. One of those cast members, ten-year-old TJ Wright, who plays the main character’s younger brother Sekani, is a breakout star on the rise. We talked with TJ about his role in The Hate U Give, acting, and where he’s going next.
Inspired by the TV shows and movies he has watched as a kid, TJ Wright first began acting at a young age. “I really wanted to be in those movies,” he said. “And imaginary play is a really big thing for me since I was a kid…. I’m still a kid, but like it’s pretty much imaginary play that I get to get paid for, travel for, and meet new people.” From there, TJ has taken on countless roles as a model and actor in ads and commercials. He even wrote and directed a short film called “Separate Friends” at the age of 5. Now, TJ is contributing his voice and talent as a main character in the major motion picture for a novel that has shaken the world.
TJ gave us a peek into the audition process for the movie, revealing that the whole process took a couple of weeks, and even after several trips back and forth between his home and New York, he wasn’t sure he was going to get the part. When TJ found out he had landed the part, he was, of course beyond excited. “I got home from school one day… and my mom told me I booked The Hate U Give,” he said. “I was screaming at the top of my lungs. I was the happiest kid on earth that day.” To us, it’s no surprise that TJ got the part. A joyful (which is what Sekani’s name means) and exuberant personality, TJ said, “Sekani is actually really true to my personality.”
Comparing himself and his character on-screen, TJ said that connecting with Sekani was easy because they are both “funny and slick” and they try to provide comic relief for people in their lives during tough situations. Even though The Hate U Give presents a powerful story that TJ wants his audience to pay attention to, he thinks it is important that they also walk away with some of the happy feelings that Sekani provides throughout the film.
Like most of us, TJ wanted to know how the film compared to the book. Once filming started, he picked up a copy of the bestselling novel and read it as they worked through scene after scene. Not only does TJ think that this helped him cement Sekani’s personality, but he also thinks the book and the movie are a pretty good match, especially in setting. “All of our settings that we went to were pretty much the same that I read in the book,” he said. It was like watching the book come to life, seeing the things he had imagined in real life.
Outside of acting, TJ is a multi-talented dynamo. One of his many passions is art and drawing. Even though this movie does not focus on art, this aspect of TJ’s personality does shine through in the movie. Sekani also loves to draw, and if you look closely, some of TJ’s artwork appears as background elements in the movie.
Now that filming has wrapped and we’re all anxiously waiting for October 5 to get here so we can see TJ and all of his co-stars on the big screen, but TJ is busy working on his next big thing. He’s working on exploring his skills as a director and writer. He also plans on working on more big movies in the future, so we’ll just have to wait for an update.