I wanted to bind with the underdog to understand the struggle, fortitude, tenacity to survive, to rise above the odds: Halle Berry

Asha Bajaj
4 min readNov 14, 2020


#Halley Berry; #TIFF2020; #Bruised; #CameronBailey

During one of the conversations series organized by the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) held at Toronto, Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director & Co-Head of TIFF discusses with Halle Berry her feature directorial debut, ‘Bruised’ following a former MMA fighter struggling to regain custody of her son and restart her athletic career. Cameron also encourages Berry to open up the challenges she faced as a woman of color, and a black woman in the entertainment industry.

Cameron Bailey: Left; Halle Berry: Right

Asha Bajaj, Editorial-Director of Canadian Media brings you the excerpts:


Cameron To Halley: As an actor, you played superheroes, supervillains, and people who were just struggling to survive like Jackie. What was it about Jackie and the story that drew you to her?

Halley: I think I understand what it has meant to be a black woman in this industry fight over the years to make a way for myself out of no way. That’s what connected me to this character. Having felt like an underdog both in my personal life, and in my professional life, I wanted to be connected to the underdog and understand the struggle, the fortitude, and the tenacity to survive and to rise above the odds. Whenever I think of a character, I have to feel like they can sit in my body and she sat squarely in my body the first time in the script.

It is also a very physical role that you had to play. This is a mixed martial artist, a fighter and I am just curious about that part of the role for the physicality of it. What did you have to go through or did you have some MMA background that we do not know about?

I did not have any MMA background but had a supreme love of the sport and an interest in learning everything I could about it. I went on a two and a half year journey of training and learning many of the different disciplines from Jui-Jitsu to TaekwonDo, to Judo, to wrestling, to boxing, kickboxing, Muay Thai. I studied many of those different disciplines and sort of came up with a fighting style for this character, but it was about a two-and-a-half-year proposition.

Halle Berry. Image credit: TIFF

It feels real. Although I don’t follow MMA in a big way, those big fight scenes of the climax are really spectacular. There are so many boxing movies, not that many interims of MMA. Did you have to come up with a visual style as the director in terms of how you are going to shoot the fights?

The genre being very popular, my aim was also that the film should be in the genre so that the film should blend with the genre. But I challenged myself to bring innovative changes in the genre and I wanted everyone around me to think of new ways to shoot fighting. By introducing many of the different elements to these training sequences, I made the boxing in the film different from English boxing. I also was keen that the fighters in leagues such as the UFC, the MMA community, Bellator, and Victor to see these movies to realize that it was an accurate depiction of their world.

This movie is just not about fighting, it is also a very powerful emotional story with remarkable actors you have cast alongside you. Could you tell us a little bit about why you cast each one?

OMG. Being the biggest job as a director was to find the actors, I succeeded in bringing in actors who were not only masters of their craft, but also to bring the talent to this movie. Starting with Sheila Atim, who plays Budhakhan, was the first character I actually cast. I was charmed by her appealing sincerity, her acting ability, and her command of the character. Even though I did not talk with her about the character, she stood above everyone else during her audition and blew me away with her own interpretation of the material. Besides her acting, I also found her to be a beautiful singer, a stage actress that English track over in the United States.

Top left to right: Cameron Bailey, Halle Berry, Sheila Atim. Bottom (left to right) Adan Canto & Shamier Anderson

Then we had Adan Canto, my Desi. I spent a long time looking for him to fit in the character with a sex appeal because he does play the main role of my love interest. Although formerly a fighter, there was something dangerous about him, at the same time he very likable. In his audition, he really brought Desi to life in a beautiful way.

Then Shamier Anderson has to carry the name Immaculate and has to have a bit of a bigger life persona when they walk in the room. You have to feel his commanding presence while standing behind and without opening his mouth he says so much. Not only does he have acting chops, but he is also a talented born actor. When I got to meet Shamier right away I thought he is exactly the person I was looking for.



Asha Bajaj

I write on national and international Health, Politics, Business, Education, Environment, Biodiversity, Science, First Nations, Humanitarian, gender, women