Aaron Pierre's Dedication: 6 Months to Become Malcolm X


Aaron Pierre's Dedication: 6 Months to Become Malcolm X
© Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

British actor Aaron Pierre, celebrated for his performances in "The Underground Railroad" and "Foe," recently discussed the immense challenge and honor of portraying Malcolm X in National Geographic's "Genius: MLK/X." Speaking exclusively with PEOPLE, Pierre revealed his initial nervousness and the intense preparation he undertook for this demanding role.

At 29, Pierre is acutely aware of the significance of his portrayal. “The role of Malcolm X is not just about playing a historical figure; it’s about representing a legacy that has profoundly influenced the Black diaspora,” he explained.

His connection to Malcolm X's impact stretches back to his upbringing in London. During Black History Month, Pierre joins other artists, like Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor and Tyler James Williams, in honoring Black icons. His depiction of Malcolm X holds a special place, as he navigates the activist's life journey, from his early days in Nebraska to his rise as a key figure in Black empowerment and his assassination in New York City at age 39.

To embody Malcolm X, Pierre, renowned for his theater work, underwent rigorous physical and vocal training. “I committed to a strict regimen, including daily sessions on the StairMaster for six months, to match Malcolm's physique.

Vocally, I delved deep into the phonetics of words to accurately capture his speech," Pierre shared.

Pierre's Unique Journey

Pierre also addressed the challenge of being compared to Denzel Washington's iconic portrayal in Spike Lee's 1992 biopic.

"Denzel is a tremendous influence. However, I realized the importance of finding my own voice in portraying Malcolm X," he said. Besides his role in "Genius: MLK/X," Pierre celebrates other influential Black artists like James Earl Jones and Suzan-Lori Parks.

"These celebratory months are crucial for highlighting our history and achievements, but as a Black man, this celebration is an ongoing part of my life,” Pierre stated. The release of "Genius: MLK/X" offers a new perspective on Malcolm X and Dr.

Martin Luther King Jr., played by Kelvin Harrison Jr. Pierre anticipates the series, premiering this Thursday on National Geographic and streaming on Disney+ and Hulu, will resonate deeply, reflecting the profound legacies of these iconic figures.

Additionally, Pierre is set to voice the lead in Barry Jenkins’ upcoming "Mufasa: The Lion King," marking another significant milestone in his diverse and impactful career.