Interview: Director Nzingha Stewart on How 'With This Ring' Is Different + Much More
Nzingha Stewart is a writer director based in Los Angeles, California. Her latest work "With This Ring," is about three single friends who vow to get married within a year.
Stewart recently spoke with Shadow and Act about the film as well as an exciting upcoming project.
Aramide Tinubu: How did you come across Deneane Millner’s book “The Vow”? Were you looking specifically for a story about single Black women looking for love?
Nzingha Stewart: None of the above. Gabrielle Union and I were introduced by Brian White who is actually in the movie, and we hit it off famously and became really good friends. She had the rights to the book and knew the author really well. And because I’m a writer and director, she was like take a look at this and see if you can come up with something. We really haven’t had a kind of Waiting to Exhale, with really fun Black women who are beautiful and their world is great to look at. They’re not like pulling out weaves. It’s just a fun, great, sisterhood movie. And I was like; I would love to do that. I would love to do something with beautiful Black women who love each other and have each other’s backs and their drama is in other places.
Aramide Tinubu: Recent films like "Jumping the Broom" (2011) "Think Like A Man" (2012) and "Baggage Claim" (2013) deal with similar romantic issues for Black Women. How is "With This Ring" different?
Nzingha Stewart: I think it actually starts with the intention. At the very beginning of the movie, I think that our intention wasn’t let’s just make a movie with Black women; they’ll show up. It wasn’t that at all. I think people think this is a movie with a “you’ve got to get married theme”, and it’s actually the opposite. For me, I felt like there were so many times I would invite friends on a trip, like let’s go to Paris or let’s go to Budapest. And they would be like yeah, that’s a really romantic city I’m going to wait until I can go with my husband. And it’s like well; you don’t even have a boyfriend. Aramide Tinubu: You’ll be waiting forever. Nzingha Stewart: Right, you’re going to be waiting for a minute. And just the idea that so many people, I do it myself sometimes with my career, [think], I’m not going to be super happy until I’m here. I have to catch myself and think well, what if that takes ten years? Am I just going to blow off this gift that the universe has given me of the next ten years and not be happy, and not feel fulfilled. Or, when I‘m doing something that’s fun, I’m occupied mentally with how do I get to this place? I really was like we’ve got to stop that. We’ve got to stop waiting on the relationship to fulfill us or the career achievement, or the house or the money, or when something else in the future happens. We’ve really got to realize, this is our life and we’re blowing it. We are missing it. And so, the intention was so pure that I really want to get this across to Black women and I think it’s different in that way. I don’t know what the intentions of the other movies were, or what the thought process was. But I can tell you between Gabrielle and me, it was not let’s just get a movie made or, we bet Black women will like this. It was like let’s create something for people that we love, which are other Black women. Let’s kind of support them in remembering, happiness is a choice and don’t wait. Don’t do that to yourself.
Aramide Tinubu: What do you think about the statistic that 49% of Black women will never get married? Do you think that the media has exacerbated the statistic and put more stress on Black women?
Nzingha Stewart: I think the media definitely does it but I think more than the media, we do it to ourselves. I cannot go home for Christmas dinner and someone not say, “Why aren’t you married yet?” Or, “When are you going to get married?” That’s not CNN in my house, that’s my aunties. And sometimes I just screw with them and I’m like, “Well obviously there is something wrong with me, maybe if I didn’t have hoven feet somebody might like me.” It’s because it’s so ridiculous to say that. I do think obviously it’s a number game and those aren’t insane misperceptions. Maybe it’s a little bit better like forty percent won’t get married. But there is some truth to the fact that statistically its just not happening. So in knowing that, what if it never happens? Are you just not going to be happy with your life? And I ask myself that everyday about something. Whether it’s some projects I’m waiting to hear about, or some project that I want to see happen. I sort of just sit with the reality of, so what if this doesn’t happen? What if this is it? What if this is my life forever? Am I just not going to be happy? And then I’ll say of course not, I gotta live. And I realize when I decide that if everything stays just exactly the way that it is, I can be happy like this. The universe will be like, let me give you everything else you ask for too. Then it’s a weird cycle, when you are in a good place, doors start opening and that has always been the truth.
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