By Lora Scripps
A Limestone County native has taken on a role in an upcoming Lifetime Original Movie that will focus on two women behind two men who forever changed history — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.
Shinelle Azoroh, a 2003 East Limestone graduate and the daughter of Cynthia and Stanley McCrary, will play the role of Quibillah “QB” Shabazz, the second daughter of Malcolm X in the movie “Betty and Coretta.”
The movie stars Angela Bassett as Coretta Scott King, the wife of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mary J. Blige as Dr. Betty Shabazz, wife of Malcolm X. Malik Yoba plays Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the film, and Lindsay Owen Pierre is playing Malcolm X.
Some people are unaware that a friendship, which spanned decades, grew between Coretta and Betty after their husbands, who had very different ideologies, were assassinated during the peak of the civil rights movement in America. Both women had to find a way to raise and support their children while taking up their husbands’ legacy.
The movie, “Betty and Coretta” will follow their journey.
Azoroh, who plays QB from age 17 to 30, admits the movie changed her.
She said QB, who purposely tried to stay out of the media, not only saw her father assassinated, but alsowitnessed hate within her own race.
Azoroh read the book “Growing Up X,” by Ilyasah Shabazz, Malcolm X’s third daughter, to find out what her character was like growing up. She also read Malcolm X’s autobiography to get a glimpse of what kind of man he was. “He was a huge figure in the black culture,” she said.
She admits that when she was growing up, she perceived Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as the “good guy” and Malcolm X as the “bad guy,” adding she could only imagine what QB went through knowing that other people might have painted the same perception about her father.
According to Azoroh, “Betty and Coretta” is about friendship and support.
Azoroh said she enjoyed working beside Angela Bassett and Mary J. Blige.
“It felt really good,” she said. “It felt as if I was dreaming at times.
“They are normal people, down-to-earth and really grounded. The moments we weren’t acting together were the moments I really appreciated.”
She has always looked up to Bassett. “At times, I couldn’t believe I was talking to her,” she said. “I felt really blessed. I was doing something I love to do and around people I appreciated.”
Azoroh said being a black woman and able to work on the movie meant a lot to her. “On and off the screen, I saw a lot of strength,” she said. “Mary J. Blige was my mom (in “Betty and Coretta”) and I saw things in her like my own mom. That strength is in me and I see it back home.”
Azoroh said there were a lot of things that reminded her of home. “I am from Alabama,” she said. “I never felt I had to change who I was. A piece of home is always with me.”
Azoroh is an actor, writer, director and teacher. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in theater and marketing in 2007 from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She received her master’s degree in acting from the American Conservatory in San Francisco in 2011, where she also received the Maureen McKibben award.
She said her love of acting started as a child when she began writing stories and directing her younger sisters in her productions.
“I feel my purpose in life is to act,” she said, adding her goals keep changing with every person she meets that inspires her. “Film is my biggest goal,” she said. “Right now, it is to be able to support myself as an artist. Of course, I can do anything I want if I put my mind to it.
She lives with her husband Toby Windham in Los Angeles.
“Betty and Coretta,” written by Ron Hutchinson and Shem Bitterman and produced by Larry Santisky, airs at 7 p.m. CST Saturday, Feb. 2, on Lifetime as part of Black History Month.
To find out more about Shinelle Azoroh, visit www.shinelleazoroh.com.