We continue to have our eyes on relative newcomer Daniele Watts, who we usually refer to as "The Strange Thing About the Johnsons actress Daniele Watts," given that it was via that very controversial short film that many of us were first introduced to her.
Since then, over the last 12 months, she's been cast in TV and film roles, most notably Showtime’s Weeds for its final season; and Quentin Tarantino's highly-anticipated and hotly-contested slave revenge narrative Django Unchained, which will be her big-screen debut – she'd done mostly TV, theater and shorts work before this, and her resume begins in 2008, so she's really just getting started.
But given the scope of the projects she's booked (even if her roles in them are peripheral), it's clear there's an awareness of her and her talent. And having seen Django Unchained, I can say that she's on screen enough to be remembered. She was hand-picked by Tarantino himself, after he saw her self-recorded and submitted audition tape.
Most recently, I learned that Ms Watts has also put on her filmmaker hat, to produce two upcoming films (her first time producing) – a short and a feature (which she also wrote and stars in).
First, the short film is titled You Are What I Want, which was officially selected to make its world premiere at the International London Lift-off Festival just late last month.
Watts, who also stars in the short film, was present in London to present it.
I'm told that she chose London specifically to premiere the film because it "presents a story that American audiences may not quite be ready for."
And what story might that just be?
In the film, written and directed by USC graduate Brian Jordan Alvarez, Watts plays a girl who falls for a guy who is just not that into her. Surely, there's more to it than that…
Ms Watts, who claims to be attracted to more challenging material, explains further:
“What sets this film apart from the average ‘he’s just not into you story’ is just how desperate the character becomes in a power dynamic most American film doesn’t deal with… Thanks, in part, to America’s history of slavery and the many films seeking to redeem the image of black people, many black folk in America are far more comfortable acknowledging that the welfare mother is a product of a racist societal history, and far less comfortable with the delicate idea that a ‘normal’ middle class black girl with an unbalanced obsession for the attention of a white guy could also be a product of that same societal fabric.”
And further… she adds:
“As the story develops, there are elements that will remind fans of Greek mythology, of the ancient cautionary tale of Echo and Narcissus. More than anything this is a universal story to which audiences all over the world can relate.”
And second, the award-winning actress is currently in post-production on a feature-length film, titled Urgency, which she wrote, is executive producing and is currently editing.
Made in collaboration with Igigi Studios, Urgency is described as…
… a whimsical, absurd and intimate performance art documentary which examines celebrity, image, and the pursuit of personal freedom, capturing a hyper-real day in the life of “Daniele” as her desire to be seen collides with her fears of being exposed.
Sounds intriguingly trippy; and having not seen a single frame of it, can only imagine what this is going to look, sound and feel like.
As she states, she's attracted to stories that challenge the status quo and offer perspectives that may be more difficult to swallow than those of typical Hollywood cinema, and she’s looking forward to continuing to create films that she considers brave enough, and that further deepend our understanding of ourselves and our motivations.
Her performing career has been steadily rising since 2011, when she was nominated for a Los Angeles Ovation Award (aka the "…highest-profile contest for local theatre…" in LA) for best supporting actress for her performance in the controversial Los Angeles premier of Neighbors at Joseph Stern’s Matrix Theatre. The entire Los Angeles production was critically acclaimed with Variety describing Watts’ role as an “artistic epiphany.”
By the way, the USC alum, is also an accomplished singer. She apparently does it all!
In the meantime, you can catch her in Django Unchained when it opens on December 25.