‘Genius: MLK/X”s Weruche Opia, Jayme Lawson talk pressure to honor Coretta Scott King & Betty Shabazz

National Geographic/Richard DuCree

The leading ladies of National Geographic’s Genius: MLK/X, a docuseries exploring the lives, accomplishments and differing philosophies of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, say that there was certainly a lot of pressure that came with playing the roles of the men’s wives, Coretta Scott King and Betty Shabazz

In conversation with ABC Audio, Weruche Opia and Jayme Lawson opened up about how they persevered through the pressure so that they could best honor the women.

“I think if you don’t feel pressure trying to honor such icons then something’s wrong with you,” Lawson, who plays Shabazz, said. 

The Woman King star added it was important to highlight the women as cultural leaders while also giving the full scope of their lives. 

“Sometimes in the community, it feels like we stay away from all the details because if we dare to dive into the details of people, it may knock them down or not give them the full honor and respect that they are due,” Lawson said.

She’s hopeful that showcasing the truths and complexities of the women gives way to “a deeper understanding … a deeper reverence” of them.

As for Opia, who takes on the role of King, she “most definitely” felt the pressure. 

She noted, “[There’s] huge shoes to attempt to fill because we can never fill those shoes.”

“But it was good pressure,” she added. “And, I guess we all really know whether the pressure makes diamonds or burst pipes when it all comes out.” 

The first two episode of Genius: MLK/X airs on Nat Geo February 1 and streams on Disney+ and Hulu the next day.

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