Regina King Delivers an Unforgettable Performance in New Netflix Biopic

Chisholm would be proud

netflix shirley regina king
Glen Wilson/Netflix

Before there was Barack Obama or Carol Moseley Braun, there was Shirley Chisholm—the trailblazing politician who made history as the first Black congresswoman. Just three years after her election to Congress, she pushed the envelope further by running for a major-party nomination for president of the United States. She's now credited as one of the few who paved the way for diverse groups to enter politics, and yet, her story was largely overlooked.

Fortunately, that changed when Shola Lynch released her insightful documentary, Chisholm ’72: Unbought & Unbossed, in 2004. Sixteen years later, Uzo Aduba delivered an unforgettable, Emmy-winning performance as Chisholm in Hulu's miniseries, Mrs. America. And now, the former U.S. Representative is finally getting the full Hollywood treatment with Netflix's Shirley.   

John Ridley's two-hour biopic, which is now streaming, focuses on her run for the 1972 Democratic presidential nomination, complete with archived footage from this pivotal moment in history. It's eye-opening, and it boasts a stellar ensemble cast, including Regina King (Chisholm), Lance Reddick (Wesley "Mac" Holder), Terrence Howard (Arthur Hardwick Jr.) and Brian Stokes Mitchell (Stanley Townsend). But it's King's performance that makes this movie shine.

In Shirley, the pioneering politician has an air of unwavering confidence and a sunny disposition—even in a sea of white faces. Aside from channeling her signature hairstyle and distinct fashion choices, King successfully captures the essence of Chisholm’s character, from her tall posture and outspoken nature to her contagious smile. King also delivers a compelling, layered performance that shows the many sides of the famed politician, from her fear and vulnerability after the assassination attempt to her complicated relationship with her husband.

It's clear from the beginning that Chisholm’s desire to help minorities and steer her country in a better direction is what drives her. But it's especially fascinating to see how her political pursuits (which involve a few intense standoffs) are balanced with her Christian values—as seen in one touching scene where she visits rival candidate George Wallace (W. Earl Brown) after he gets shot.

netflix shirley regina king 1

Aside from King's spot-on depiction of Chisholm (sans the slight Bajan accent), fans can also expect solid performances from the rest of the cast and plenty of insight into Chisholm's highly publicized campaign. Whether you're somewhat familiar with her career or simply curious to know more about the woman behind the headlines, you'll likely see Chisholm in a new light when the credits roll.

Want all the latest entertainment news sent right to your inbox? Click here.

nakeisha campbell bio

Associate Editor, News and Entertainment

Nakeisha has been interviewing celebrities and covering all things entertainment for over 8 years, but she has also written on a wide range of topics, like career...