Brentwood-raised Medina Senghore is of Gambian descent. She is set to star opposite Angelina Jolie in the thriller “Those Who Wish Me Dead,” opening theatrically and on HBO Max this Friday.
Medina has a degree in chemical engineering, followed by a law degree from Harvard University, followed by work at Manhattan law firms, followed by a vice presidency at American Express, followed by a master of fine arts degree from The Juilliard School and
“I’m very proud of my accomplishments and appreciate the prestige of the schools that I’ve attended,” Senghore, 44, says by phone from Los Angeles when asked if people are intimidated by her background, “but I don’t think anyone should be intimidated by anyone because everyone has something unique and special about them. Most of the people in my intimate circle, I look up to them and consider them so impressive.”
“Those Who Wish Me Dead” stars Oscar-winner Jolie as a smokejumper — a firefighter who parachutes into wildfires — trying to help a traumatized young murder witness (Finn Little) escape two assassins. Senghore plays a pregnant survival-school instructor married to a deputy sheriff (Jon Bernthal) in Montana, where they’re trapped between the killers and a conflagration.
The real-life mother of two children with husband Kareem Collie, Senghore used her character’s pregnancy as an anchor. “In one scene I auditioned with,” the actress says, “she talks about how she’s uncomfortable” physically at her stage of the pregnancy. “I’m a physically active person. But when you’re pregnant, there comes a day where there are things you can’t do anymore.” Senghore “identified with this character’s identity crisis when your physicality starts to be limited by this wonderful thing you’re excited about. I love contradictions and paradoxes in characters and honed in on that.”
Contradictions and paradoxes have long been a part of Senghore’s life. Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where her parents Mustapha and Vivian Senghore lived while her late father attended college, Medina moved to Brentwood as an infant. Her U.S.-born mother, a New York City public school teacher, is Christian, and her Gambia-born father, who worked in sales, was Muslim. They both prized achievement for their daughter.