‘One Night in Miami’ Star Eli Goree On What He Learned About Faith Portraying Cassius Clay

Male leads of "One Night in Miami"
image via Amazon Prime

“One Night in Miami” is the feature film directorial debut, from Academy Award winning actress Regina King. The film tells a fictionalized version of events following the 1964 heavyweight championship victory of Cassius Clay (Eli Goree) in Miami. After the win, Clay celebrated with Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir,) Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.)

The action takes place over the course of a few hours. It’s based on the stage play written by Kemp Powers, who adapted it for the screen. The center of the conversation taking place between these four successful Black men navigating, what at the time was traditionally white spaces, centers on what is the best approach to help advance the Black community. Each man’s position in the film connects to current discussions happening in 2020 amongst the entertainment, sports and political figures in the Black community.

The African American Film Critics’ Association sponsored a roundtable discussion with the actors of the film. The conversation touched on their experience filming, what they learned about these historical figures, and the genius in Regina King’s direction of the project.


I had the opportunity to participate in the conversation. I asked the actors if there were any principals learned from the characters and their experience that they have adopted for use in their real life.

Eli Goree who portrays Cassius Clay – the film is set right before Clay joined the Nation of Islam, and changed his name to Muhammad Ali – had this to say:

“The boldness and the willingness to truly express in a vulnerable and transparent way what you are truly believing and thinking about what you are called to do. Especially with Cassius with regard to his faith. I’m a Christian, I love Jesus Christ. A lot of times when it comes to faith, people will try to marginalize you. They’ll say, well we don’t want you to talk about that. 

You can be an actor, you can be a boxer. You can talk about politics, you can talk about economics, but you can’t talk about faith. Because that makes people uncomfortable. Somehow Cassius found a way – and he didn’t always have it, but he developed a way to be completely honest and bold about his faith and his beliefs. And that it was the center of his life, without making people feel like they weren’t included in his life…”

Watch the entire interview, and catch “One Night in Miami” on Amazon Prime Video January 15.