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Thembi Banks talks 'Young. Wild. Free.,' the film maker's directorial debut

Thembi Banks poses for a portrait on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Gary Gerard Hamilton)   -  
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Gary Gerard Hamilton/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.


Thembi Banks says although her feature film directorial debut, “Young. Wild. Free.” has been hitting the festival circuit and has garnered a lot of attention, she’s ready for the world to see it.

“Audience festivals have seen it, a few people have seen it, but it hasn't like actually come out to the world. So, you're like in that in-between phase where like some people kind of know about you and the movie and all the hard work you did…and then some people, you know, they're still waiting to discover you and the movie,” said Banks, whose premieres have included Sundance and Urban World.

“Young. Wild. Free.," which does not yet have an official release date, stars Algee Smith of “Euphoria” fame, Sierra Capri of Netflix’s popular “On My Block Series” that ran from 2018-2021, and veteran star actress Sanaa Lathan.

According to the film’s logline, a teenager named Brandon (Smith) struggling to provide for his younger siblings in Compton finds his life turned upside down when he's held at gunpoint by the girl of his dreams (Capri). Lathan plays Brandon’s mother who’s struggling with mental health. The film takes drastic turns throughout, each bigger and more significant each time.

“Sanaa is everything. I love her so much. She's just a blessing,” said Banks, who cut her teeth on episodic TV shows such as Issa Rae’s “Insecure,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” and “The Sex Life of College Girls.” “We've all heard stories where, you know, it was like the first-time filmmaker and the big star and, the person didn't necessarily like …Or, you know, they were combative or they weren't really, you know, open to hearing notes and ideas. But Sanaa was the exact opposite.”

Banks says while it’s been “tricky” promoting a film was the WGA was on strike and SAG-AFTRA are still in strike negotiations, it’s a necessary issue.

“It's difficult and tricky, you know, because you also, as artists who are in the middle of a strike and believe in, you know, fighting for equity, fighting for all the things that are important to us, you also want to focus on that and show the world that like, hey, you know, I can't do this right now at the best of my ability because we're in something here trying to make a better way for ourselves,” said Banks. “I think the labor movement of this summer is not just for the entertainment industry. You saw so many industries going on strike: you saw hotel workers, hospital workers, teachers, U.P.S. was threatening. So, I think it's an important moment to kind of like focus in on and be strong in.”