Tuesday, May 17

In ‘National Champions’, Uzo Aduba’s performance is inspired by real life experience


What if the best college football player boycotted the college football championship game?

That is the question that the film “National Champions” dares to ask, which opens on Friday. The film has a cast that includes Stephan James, JK Simmons, Jeffery Donvoan, Timothy Olyphant, Dave Koechner, and Uzo Aduba.

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Aduba, who won two Emmy Awards for her role in “Orange is the New Black,” was based on her experiences as a track star at Boston University from 1999 to 2003. In “National Champions,” Aduba plays Katherine, a Advisor to the president of the College Football Playoff who attempts to crush the player’s boycott the night before the national championship game.

Aduba offers the best interpretation of the film.

“I was able to borrow from that and understand their position in wanting to protect and support sports that don’t have big dollars or schools that don’t have big dollars,” Aduba told Sporting News. “Those who academically benefit athletes who go through the program.”

The movie tackles all the moving parts of college football in a big way, including the multi-million dollar business aspect and the right compensation for the student-athletes involved. James plays star quarterback LeMarcus James and Simmons plays coach James Lazor. Jeffrey Donovan plays a role similar to that of a college football commissioner.

The setting is an overnight dramatization that seems implausible, but the long-term point still stands. Aduba said the film should resonate with both the casual and hardcore college football fan.

“Enough points are drafted, whether it be conversations about insurance, or to highlight the salaries of those in the system,” Aduba said. “I think those are things that will certainly be heard by the average soccer audience.”

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Courtesy of ‘Campeones Nacionales’

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“Campeones Nacionales” will not strike the same chord as the 1993 film “The Program” (although the Lobos’ mascot is shared in both films) because it addresses the general issues of amateur athletics. Aduba, through his character, asks the million dollar question.

If colleges make up for major sports, how will the rest of the sports programs survive?

“I think the movie does a good job of representing each voice,” Aduba said. “The movie could have a thoughtful conversation. It does not hold a single entity responsible. It just highlights all the parts and holes that exist that allow certain things to exist.

“The fact that some of these doors are opening is a good thing and should continue to be investigated and visited,” he said. “There is still room for more testing to better serve these athletes who are devoting much of their physical energy and time to the system that feels most reciprocated.”

Aduba recalled his own student-athlete experience, which involved pursuing a career as an athlete, singer and actress. That theme is also explored in “National Champions”.

“The hardest thing was managing the schedule, particularly since the schedule was incredibly exhausting because those two areas require your physical presence,” Aduba said. “To act, you have to be on stage. To play you have to be on the field. It’s not just about writing an article and submitting it, and even that can be incredibly exhausting for a college athlete. “

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The “national champions” present a kind of apocalyptic scenario, but it’s more about prophetic issues within the sport. It is less about the transfer portal or the name, image and likeness (NIL) and more about the disparity between the income generated and what the student-athletes receive.

That has been a heated debate for several years within intercollegiate athletics. “National Champions” attempts to address those questions about what would happen if there was a boycott. However, the answers are still hard to come by.

“I hope it is well received,” Aduba said. “Our director put enough information and questions into the story that it would cause at least a pause and consider all the sides and voices that are represented in the film. The film does a very good job of creating a nuanced conversation.”




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