Streaming now on Disney+ is “Rise,” a biographical film on the remarkable journey of the Antetokounmpo from Nigeria to Greece to the NBA. The family, cast and creative team gathered to discuss the inspiration and message behind this film.
In the discussion were screenwriter Arash Amel and director Akin Omotoso, as well as members of the Antetokounmpo family: Giannis, Thanasis, Alex, Kostas and Veronica. From the cast was Uche Agada (as Giannis Antetokounmpo), Ral Agada (as Thanasis Antetokounmpo), Yetide Badaki (as the mother Veronica Antetokounmpo), and Dayo Okeniyi (as the father Charles Antetokounmpo).
On the inspiration and motivation behind the film:
Giannis Antetokounmpo: Disney approached us around 2018 giving us the opportunity to share out story with the world. And we came together as a family. We decided that it was something that we wanted to do. I think our story is very inspiring. A lot of people gonna learn things about us that they’ve never heard before. And we really enjoyed the process. Our story is such an amazing story, you know, where we started from and where we at right now. And everybody talks about us, about me, Thanasis, Kostas and Alex and Francis, but they always leave out our parents, my dad and my mom. We knew that one day we gonna tell ‘em, like, who the real heroes of this story is, of this journey is.
Arash Amel: When I first heard the story, it was very clear that we had an incredibly modern tale of triumph over adversity. And what made it modern is that it’s a universal story. It’s a universal story family. It’s a story of faith. And at the core of it, it’s a story about, you know, a very modern world where immigration and sort of cultural identity actually is sort of at the very root of it. And this ability for this wonderfully generous family to allow us into their lives and to be able to tell that story was really the genesis of it.
On finding the right cast for family of famous athletes:
Yetide Bakadi: The thing for me that resonated immediately was the idea of the ability of the dream. To shine a light in really dark times. And you asked where I was in my career, in getting to read for this was right in the middle of the pandemic. It had been a while since I had been on a set. I wasn’t sure if I would get on a set again. And the thing about that time was that everything had to be incredibly intentional. You literally, when you walk out the door, you’re making a decision on whether it’s worth your life. And I remember reading this script and it was one of those where the agency sent it. And you always, you know, do that quick, read a couple of pages and then when we have time, we’ll get to the rest of it. And I couldn’t put it down. And it was one of those scripts that I think it was two, three a.m. when I was done, sobbing.
Uche Agade: I just clicked on a link and I just send a video, just talking about myself… A few months later, I got a call back. And
for me, I was never an actor prior to this, so this was very weird for me. So, when it said callback with a director of a movie, in my mind, I’m like, yo, that’s crazy. But I did that callback and did another callback. And eventually they told me I got the part, which is absolutely incredible. And then, couple weeks later, they asked me if I had any siblings and I said I had an older brother. And then…
Ral Agade: So, my little brother Uche calls me up one day. I mean, at this point, I know he’s in the movie and everybody’s just so happy that he’s in it. I’m so proud of him. So, when he calls me up saying, “Hey, you wanna try out for the older brother?”
On the message to take away from the film:
Kostas Antetokounmpo: I would say, just from the film, and us as a family in general, the one thing that every single one of us goes by, and it started from my mom, was just to be selfless, you know, to be able to put others before you. And feel like our whole brotherhood is based on that. You know, like, you could ask them. Sometimes I watch him play or him playing or him play. And I get more nervous than if I was playing. It’s vice versa. So, like that I says, we all score together.
Alex Antetokounmpo: I think just that anything is possible, you know, that if you have a dream or goals you should just chase it, and literally, like a family of immigrants in Greece from Nigeria, in a small neighborhood and support made it to having three brothers having a championship in the N-B-A and having the younger brother going in playing major league too.
Veronica Antetokounmpo: So I always like just people to be faithful, be humble, be disciplined, and have faith in anything you do. And never, never lose hope in what you’re doing. Keep doing what you do.
“Rise” is streaming now on Disney+.