MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Seventh-graders Alex Hibbert and Jaden Piner returned to middle school Wednesday as stars of an Oscar-winning film, but the “Moonlight” actors still had to go back to basics with their classmates in drama class.
At Norland Middle School, they followed acting teacher Tanisha Cidel’s directions to crawl on the floor like lions and recite the tongue-twister “red leather, yellow leather” faster and faster.
Cidel played a principal in the film that also won Oscars for best supporting actor and best adapted screenplay.
“The key here is not to pretend,” she told her students. “The key here is to be real. Honest.”
In the communities where “Moonlight” was filmed, the movie has been lauded this week for its honest representation of life in black Miami, long overshadowed by the city’s glitzy hotels and hipster neighborhoods.
Writer-director Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney, whose play “Moonlight” is based on, both grew up in the Liberty City streets and schools depicted on screen.
“It shows that Liberty City is not really a bad place and you can’t judge it by the news,” 12-year-old Alex said. “When you watch ‘Moonlight,’ you find the beauty of Liberty City.”
“Moonlight” follows the life of a young black man — played as a child by Alex — as he grows up in poverty and comes to terms with his own homosexuality. Jaden plays his classmate.
Thirteen-year-old Jaden said he could relate to his character’s desire to help a friend, but Alex said the bullying his character suffers fortunately wasn’t something he had experienced.
Both boys said they figured it was a joke when the audience was belatedly told the top award went to “Moonlight” and not “La La Land.” In the confusion, they had to jump over other audience members to join the rest of their cast onstage.
“I jumped over this guy, and he was screaming, ‘What the –?’ and I was like, ‘I’m sorry, I just won an award!'” Alex said.
An Oscars highlight for both boys: meeting “The Amazing Spider-Man” actor Andrew Garfield.
Jaden said “Moonlight” ”shows Miami kids are talented not only in sports.”
Alex said he’ll next act in a television series in Chicago, starting in April.
Alex, Jaden and their teacher walked down a “red carpet'” taped to a classroom floor to talk with reporters, but they weren’t alone in the limelight: About a dozen other Norland students had roles as extras in the film.
Cidel said her students shouldn’t be the only ones inspired by the movie’s success.
“I want the parents to understand that if your child has any talent or shows an interest in the arts, take it seriously,” she said.
Oscars 2017: Awards, After Parties & More
1. Tarell Alvin McCraney and Barry Jenkins1 of 24
2. The cast of Moonlight2 of 24
3. Kat Graham3 of 24
4. Halle Berry at the Vanity Fair after party4 of 24
5. The Wilsons at the Vanity Fair after party5 of 24
6. Tracee Ellis RossSource:Instagram 6 of 24
7. Janelle Monae, Katherine Johnson, Taraji P. Henson and Octavia SpencerSource:Instagram 7 of 24
8. Aldis HodgeSource:Instagram 8 of 24
9. Gabrielle Union WadeSource:Instagram 9 of 24
10. Janelle MonaeSource:Instagram 10 of 24
11. LL Cool J and wife SimoneSource:Instagram 11 of 24
12. Jurnee BellSource:Instagram 12 of 24
13. Octavia SpencerSource:Instagram 13 of 24
14. Charlize Theron14 of 24
15. Denzel and Pauletta Washington15 of 24
16. Halle Berry16 of 24
17. Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel17 of 24
18. Mahershala Ali18 of 24
19. Naomie Harris19 of 24
20. Scarlett Johnasen20 of 24
21. Ava Duvernay21 of 24
22. David Oyelowo22 of 24
23. Chrissy Tiegen and John Legend23 of 24
24. Taraji P. Henson24 of 24
(Photo Source: AP)