We get to know the star of Disney's new film exploring the life of 18th Century composer Chevalier de Saint-Georges
words Megan Wallace
Now in UK and Irish cinemas, Chevalier is the new Disney film exploring the true-life story of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges. Largely written out of the history books, this historical figure had an impressive life and became the first recorded European figure of African ancestry to garner musical acclaim.
The son of an enslaved woman of Senegalese heritage and a plantation owner, Bologne was born in Guadeloupe, then a French colonial territory, in 1745. At the age of seven he moved to France to receive education in a boarding school where, quickly, his athletic and musical talents became apparent. Not only was he a champion fencer, he was a virtuoso violinist and his skills led him to become a noted figure in the French royal court.
As the years went on, he continued to build on his musical skills - switching from solely performing to composition and conducting. In this creatively rich period of his career he devised operas, concertos and symphonies to an enthusiastic reception by the French elite despite the racism which he also faced throughout his life. But his achievements don’t end there, as the French Revolution reared his head in 1789, he joined the French revolutionary army and served as a colonel in the Légion St.-Georges, a unit comprised of soldiers of colour.
Clearly, it’s a fascinating story and serves as ripe source material. Luckily, Chevalier does Bologne’s life justice through a compelling script written by Atlanta’s Stefani Robinson and a powerhouse performance in the titular role by Kelvin Harrison Jr, who woo was lucky enough to meet ahead of the film’s release.
Watch our exclusive video to check out the actor discussing his love of peppermint tea, why wearing sunglasses inside helps him feel like the main character and how he battles imposter syndrome.
Chevalier is released today (9 June) in UK and Irish cinemas.
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