Amanda Stenberg talks code-switching, her first impressions of KJ Apa and The Hate U Give

24 October 2018, 14:40 | Updated: 24 October 2018, 14:57

Woodrow Whyte

By Woodrow Whyte

Amandla Stenberg sits down with PopBuzz to talk about her new film The Hate U Give and wanting to play Eleven's cousin on Stranger Things.

We'll freely admit that Amandla Stenberg, actress and woke queen, can't really do anything wrong in our eyes. In fact, her latest role in The Hate U Give, an adaption of Angie Thomas' hugely popular YA novel of the same name, has to be up there with her best work to date.

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The film takes an unflinching look at institutional racism, code-switching and police brutality through the eyes of Stenberg's character, Starr Carter. Starr is a teenager who lives a near-double life, switching between her mostly white and privileged high school and the poor, mostly black, neighbourhood where she lives. The Hate U Give follows the teen in the aftermath of the police shooting death of her close friend.


As well as discussing the film and her real-life experiences of code-switching in high school, we asked Amandla about Stranger Things producer Shawn Levy, who also produced The Darkest Minds, which Amandla starred in earlier this year.

Were there any conversations between the two about Amandla heading to Hawkins? "No, there were never any conversations - I wish! That would be dope", she said.

She was, however, present when Charlie Heaton was cast as Jonathan Byers in Stranger Things. "I actually was working with Charlie Heaton on this indie film called As You Are when he got cast in Stranger Things. I remember because we were filming and he got this last minute call and he needed to fly out to Atlanta to do this screen test. And then he found out he booked it. It was exciting but we had no clue what it would be yet."

Stenberg also opened up about working with Riverdale's KJ Apa, who plays Starr's boyfriend in The Hate U Give. Amandla had seen a few episodes of Riverdale prior to filming, but was a little skeptical about what KJ would be like in person.

"I had watched a couple of episodes, I wasn't deep into it though. I was excited to meet him and he ended up being so much cooler than I could have anticipated. No offence to him! I was just like 'Oh ok this white bro, he's probably going to be cool' but then I was like 'Oh my god, this is one of the coolest kids on the planet.'

Watch the full interview above. The Hate U Give is out in cinemas now in the UK.