Joi McMillon sat down with The Knockturnal to discuss the challenges of editing the historical trauma in the African American past into digestible content for Amazon Prime’s The Underground Railroad.
Joi McMillon is the co-editor of Barry Jenkins’ latest project, The Underground Railroad. McMillon also made history, receiving an Oscar nomination for her editing work on the award-winning film Moonlight, making her the first Black woman ever to be nominated for an Oscar for film editing.
McMillon’s editing prowess has long been recognized by her former classmate, Jenkins. They have worked on several groundbreaking projects together, and it’s easy to see why.
“Working with Barry [Jenkins] is such joy that it doesn’t feel like actual work,” McMillon recounted.
When asked about why she joined the creative team for The Underground Railroad, McMillon said, “I was very excited that we were actually going to take on a series this time, and not a film. I am happy that [The Underground Railroad] was a series, because I think it really gave us the time to bring Cora to life and allow people to see and experience her journey.”
Starring Thuso Mbedu, The Underground Railroad chronicles Cora Randall’s desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. After escaping a Georgia plantation for the rumored Underground Railroad, Cora discovers no mere metaphor but instead an actual railroad full of engineers and conductors, and a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil.
Over the course of her journey, Cora is pursued by Ridgeway (Joel Edgerton), a bounty hunter fixated on bringing her back to the plantation from which she escaped; especially since her mother Mabel is the only one he has never caught.
As she travels from state to state, Cora contends with the legacy of the mother who left her behind, and her own struggles, to realize a life she never thought was possible.
While film editing is still largely dominated by men in the film industry, McMillon feels like the journey toward diversity in the workplace is truly underway.
“I find myself to feel so blessed and thankful for the career that I’ve been able to have and also taking the opportunity to shine a light on the lack of diversity and hopefully opening the doors for others to follow behind me. Our career paths are oftentimes dictated by the color of our skin, being male or female.”
With amazing, courageous women like McMillon knocking down barriers for the generations to come behind them, the opportunity to show what you can do no matter your race, orientation, or gender is coming.
The Underground Railroad stars Thuso Mbedu, Chase W. Dillon, and Joel Edgerton. Aaron Pierre, William Jackson Harper, Sheila Atim, Amber Gray, Peter De Jersey, Chukwudi Iwuji, Damon Herriman, Lily Rabe, Irone Singleton, Mychal-Bella Bowman, Marcus “MJ” Gladney, Jr., Will Poulter, and Peter Mullan round out the cast.
Barry Jenkins serves as showrunner and directs all ten episodes of the limited series. He executive produces alongside Adele Romanski, Mark Ceryak, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Brad Pitt, Richard Heus, Jacqueline Hoyt, and Colson Whitehead. The Underground Railroad is a production of Plan B, Pastel, and Big Indie with Amazon Studios.
Check out The Underground Railroad, exclusively on Amazon Prime.