Friday, August 12, 2022

Stars of Disney+’s ‘Rise’ Share Unique Casting Journey to the Film | EURexclusiveWATCH

*The new Disney+ film “Rise” tells the inspiring story of NBA champion Giannis Antetokounmpo and his family.  After emigrating from Nigeria to Greece, Charles Antetokounmpo (Dayo Okeniyi) and Vera Antetokounmpo (Yetide Badaki) struggled to survive and raise their five children safely.

Their lives consisted of living under the daily threat of deportation and selling items to tourists on the streets of Athens. For relief, their sons – Giannis (Uche Agada,) Thanasis (Ral Agada) and Kostas (Jaden Osimuwa) would play basketball with a local youth team.

Late bloomers in the basketball world, the brothers went from the streets of Greece to the NBA.

EUR correspondent Jill Munroe talked exclusively with the film’s stars, Okeniyi and Badaki, about their unique journey in securing the roles.

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Rise
Rise (2022)

Okeniyi heard about the film while watching the Disney companies’ investor day presentation. And set out to figure out how to become involved in the project.

“I remember Sean Bailey, the president of Walt Disney Studios, went on stage and announced this movie they were getting ready to make about Giannis’ life,” said Okeniyi. “As a Nigerian immigrant,  I think there might be something in here for me. I can’t play any of the brothers because I’m not 6’11 and built like a Greek god. But I know there might be a cousin in the movie somewhere, somebody I could play.”

Through that process, Okeniyi was able to get a copy of the script. He said that it was an incredible screenplay.

“It’s everything I love in movies,” said Okeniyi. “It was inspirational. It was about my people, my Nigerian culture. You know, I’ve never played a Nigerian in my whole career. So it was the first time I got to play myself. It wasn’t such a niche story. It’s not a franchise thing. It’s not guys with capes and superpowers, and Disney is taking a chance on this film. It was such a spoil of riches.”

rise
Rise (2022)

For his co-star Badaki, the audition came right in the middle of the pandemic. The actress hadn’t been on set since things closed down. In her first reading of the script, she said it kept her up late into the night and in tears once she finished it. But, she told her agent, “I have to make this film. I have to be a part of making this.”

The two had to do a chemistry read via Zoom, which both agreed was awkward. But, Badaki added, “being Nigerian and also being an immigrant; the idea of being a part of telling a story like this, and this family, their ability to rise throughout pretty much all kinds of adversity. So it was something I had to be a part of.”

Rise” also stars Manish Dayal and Taylor Nichols. It’s available exclusively on Disney+ beginning June 24.

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