'Rise' director, star talk about telling true story of the Antetokounmpo family

"Rise" is now streaming on Disney+.

ByMary Pat Thompson and Jason Nathanson via via logo
June 24, 2022, 12:16 PM

The director and star of the new Disney+ film "Rise," which premiered Friday on Disney+, are opening up about what the movie means to them and what they hope viewers take away from the story.

"Rise" tells the true story of the Antetokounmpo family who, after years of hard work and struggle, found incredible success in the world of professional basketball, with three of their five children -- Giannis, Thanasis, and Alex -- eventually playing for the NBA.

Dayo Okeniyi plays Charles Antetokounmpo, the patriarch of the family, in the movie and spoke with ABC Audio about how much he admired his character's strength.

"The great thing about Charles is he never wore that on his sleeves," Okeniyi said. "He always remained, you know, a man of strong self-esteem ... I think that's a really great leadership quality he had."

Not only did Okeniyi admire his character's strength, he also related to his story.

PHOTO: Yetide Badaki as Vera, Ral Agada as Thanasis, Elijah Sholanke as Alexandros, Uche Agada as Giannis, Dayo Okeniyi as Charles, and Jaden Osimuwa as Kostas in "RISE."
Yetide Badaki as Vera, Ral Agada as Thanasis, Elijah Sholanke as Alexandros, Uche Agada as Giannis, Dayo Okeniyi as Charles, and Jaden Osimuwa as Kostas in "RISE."
20th Century Studios

"I'm also an immigrant from Nigeria, moved to America when I was 15," Okeniyi said. "It's constantly debating what is the best thing to do for our children, you know ... Just imagine not being able to put food on the table for your family or not being able to give your sons the dream they want to become."

Director Akin Omotoso said he took cues from Giannis Antetokounmpo's speech at the 2019 NBA Awards, where he was named the league's most valuable player. "He speaks about when you were a kid, you can't see the future and your parents see the future for you," Omotoso said.

"I hope that when people watch [the movie], they follow that journey and recognize themselves in that journey," he added.

After the Antetokounmpo family watched the film for the first time, Omotoso said they told him it really "captured the essence" of what they went through.

"That's what we really wanted to do," Omotoso said. "When you're making something about someone's life, you want to be sure that they see things that trigger other things. It's like, 'Ah, we remember that.'"

"Rise" is now streaming on Disney+.

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