Newcomer Chante Adams stars in one of Sundance’s biggest hits this year, “Roxanne Roxanne,” as one of the pivotal figures of 1980s hip-hop, Roxanne Shante. “It was a little nerve-wracking because I want to do her justice. I want to do this piece what it deserves.”
Luckily, the real Roxanne Shante was on set for the shoot and made herself available for any help she could give. “Whenever I had a question about anything, it was great to have the source right there, and we had some fun times in between takes.”
Writer-director Michael Larnell was dead-set on telling the true-life story once producers Forest Whitaker and Pharrell Williams told him about it. “They sent me the ‘Roxanne’s Revenge’ video. I’m big on worlds and characters, and this young lady just popped off the screen to me. Immediately when I saw it, I wanted to get to know her story and what she was about during that time.”
Roxanne Shante (born Lolita Shante Gordon) became famous at age 14 for kicking off one of the earliest, if not the earliest rap beefs, the so-called “Roxanne Wars” between the rap group UTFO and the Juice Crew hip hop collective, along with dozens of imitators. The filmmakers took great care to tell the story in the right way, even shooting some of the film in the projects where Roxanne grew up, along with several other hip-hop legends.
“We shot on the same floor, in the same building where Nas grew up,” said Nia Long, who portrays Roxanne’s mom, Peggy. “You could feel the energy of the people. In between scenes, we would sit in the courtyard, and we got a chance to speak to the locals. Some of the ladies would come over and go, ‘Oh my God girl, don’t she look like Miss Peggy?'”
Watch the full interview above.