The Woman King is Sony’s upcoming historical blockbuster, starring Lashana Lynch as the leader of an all-female military regiment. Lynch already had an enviably strong physique following her role in 007 spectacular No Time to Die, but training for The Woman King taught her new lessons about what it means to be fit.
She tells RSNG.com about the rigours of shooting in South Africa and the joys of combining yoga and jiu-jitsu...
A Story Of Rising Up
The Woman King is Sony’s inspiring re-telling of the true story of the Dahomey Amazons, an all-female military regiment of the Kingdom of Dahomey. In the wake of Churchill/ Colston slave trade sagas and the controversy of the British plundering of subjects from Africa, it stands as a salutary story of rising up against oppression.
“This is what drew me to the film more than anything else,” begins Lashana Lynch. “We have more movies than ever now that push forward the model of the badass female fighter, and we should be truly proud that we have made that move, as an industry.
“Yet to do this in a historical context, and to find a true-story platform on which to base the energy, excess and achievements of incredible fighters is something again, and makes me very proud.”
Big Movie, Big Names
The 34-year-old Brit is assisted by a formidable cast. In Viola Davis (General Nanisca), Thuso Mbedu (young recruit Nawi) and John Boyega (King Ghezo), she stands alongside pioneering actors whose approach to film is very much based on the subjectivity and psychology of human beings, now and in history.
Lynch is also presented against the backdrop of some spectacular cinematography. “We filmed in South Africa, which was as stunning as it was inspirational,” she says.
The intention was to make this about a female military group – using raw body strength, the power of positivity and the courage to rise up against oppression
“A lot of the shoot was hot, repetitive and extremely physical. I don’t think I’ve ever taken on so much water on a shoot.
“At times it felt like more of a theater musical set-up – there were lots of tribal effects, lots of music, chanting, lots of really precise and beautifully choreographed movement. It was very inspirational.”
“The appeal to make this about a female military group, using raw body strength, the power of positivity and the courage to rise up against oppression is something that then, now, and all these decades in between, is perennially powerful.”
The Big Bond Take-Out
That element of power is second nature for Lynch, who impressed as Nomi in last year’s Bond spectacular, No Time to Die. Lynch says she had to take her core to new realms of strength for that role. Indeed, the punching, drop-kicking and somersaulting strength gained for the Bond film clearly set her up for a string of very similar moves in The Woman King.
“The synergy between the roles was really good,” she says. “After the Bond experience, I felt a new core strength that I’d never had before, despite the fact I’ve come from an athletics background and I know the value of core strength.
When I was young so much female fitness was about extreme bodybuilding on one side and skinny ultra-endurance on the other
“In the past I’ve worked on muscle strength on the outside, but never focused as much on power and control and balance from the center. I am built for speed and agility mostly, yet discovering a core became something I really wanted to maintain.”
“Naturally you feel that core when you’re exercising and moving around, but even when lying down, or perhaps stretching to do household chores, there was a real sense of solidity and poise to the way I was moving, and it was something relatively new to me.”
Lynch says developing this aspect has meant feeling less tired when travelling, and never waking up with stiffness. “Everything radiates from the core, and I can really feel the benefit. These are principles I first learned through yoga and jiu-jitsu, but through athletics you are taught that so much goes through the legs, yet I am now coming round to another way of thinking.”
It’s not just her own fitness journey that has given Lynch inspiration – she sees a more general positive trend emerging in the zeitgeist:
“What I like most is the new appetite for female fitness,” she says. “When I was young, so much female fitness was about extreme bodybuilding on one side and skinny ultra-endurance on the other.
“There was nothing in the middle for the average woman. Now the middle has been filled and we have strong, powerful, positive women as role models, much like the Dahomey Amazons were all those years ago.”
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