Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Why C.J. Walker From See You Yesterday Looks So Familiar

It used to be that films as socially aware as they are wildly entertaining arrived with such rarity that they were rightfully celebrated by both critics and audiences in equal measure. Nowadays, those films are arriving with such regularity viewers are hardly able to keep up. Luckily, the advent of streaming is making it easier for audiences to embrace the power of socially conscious cinema. 

In the case of 2019's egregiously overlooked See You Yesterday, Netflix footed the bill for a meticulously crafted time-travel adventure with far more on its mind than the typical time-jumping shenanigans. Given that See You Yesterday was produced by cinematic button-pusher extraordinaire Spike Lee, that'll hardly come as a surprise.

Adapted from a 2017 short, See You Yesterday follows C.J. and Sebastian, a pair of teen science prodigies in modern-day Brooklyn who have managed to create makeshift time machines. They've done so with a singular purpose in mind: To save the life of CJ's big brother, who was wrongfully killed in an encounter with the NYPD. See You Yesterday's narrative is about as timely as it gets, but that's only half the story, as it's also a genuinely thrilling cinematic experience propelled forward by the brilliant performances of its young cast. 

The youngster who portrays C.J. Walker in the film might seem a bit familiar to some viewers. Her name is Eden Duncan-Smith, and she's been making a bit of a name for herself in the movie biz in recent years. Here's Why C.J. Walker from See You Yesterday looks so familiar

Eden Duncan-Smith appeared in the best episode of Master of None

Just a couple of years ago, Aziz Ansari's Netflix series Master of None was widely considered one of the finest originals the streaming giant had yet produced. Over the course of 20 episodes, it managed to be alternately brash, wickedly insightful, laugh-out-loud funny, and emotionally wrenching. Particularly worth checking out are the contributions of Ansari's frequent Master of None co-star Lena Waithe, who penned the eighth episode of the show's immaculate second season and ended up netting an Emmy for her efforts. Titled "Thanksgiving," the episode unfolds over a handful of the titular holidays from the '90s to the present day, and finds Waithe's character struggling to come to terms with her own sexuality, and eventually coming out to her friends and family. 

Equal parts heartfelt confessional, stark family drama, and bravura statement of LGBTQ pride, the "Thanksgiving" episode of Master of None remains the series' finest moment. It also finds a corn-rowed Eden Duncan-Smith portraying the teenaged version of Waithe's character, and imbuing the brave young woman with a warily hopeful sort of knowledge well beyond her years.   

Eden Duncan-Smith played model student to Olivia Wilde's tortured teacher in Meadowland

Master of None is hardly the first time Eden Duncan-Smith portrayed a youngster wise beyond her years. In fact, that's sort of become the actor's forte over the course of her young career. Exhibit B is her soulful supporting turn in Reed Morano's (The Rhythm Section) harrowing 2015 indie drama Meadowland.

Set amid the sprawling fringes of modern-day New York City, Meadowland tells the tale of a couple (Olivia Wilde and Luke Wilson) who, a year after their young son mysteriously disappears, are dealing with the tragedy in divergent fashion. For Wilson's character, that means taking a more traditional view of healing, even if he begins to lose himself along the way. His wife, a public school teacher, takes a starkly different approach, putting herself in increasingly dangerous situations on the streets of New York and developing an unhealthy obsession towards a student in her class struggling with Asperger's Syndrome (Iron Man 3's Ty Simpkins).   

It's another of the woman's students who first takes notice of her teacher's soul-crushing grief and growing fixation with her classmate, thus also noting the early stages of the woman's heartbreaking downward spiral. As is the case with her role in Master of None, Duncan-Smith doesn't get much in the way of screen time in Meadowland, but the young actor makes the most of the moment, finding untapped wells of empathy and compassion in the character that simply could not have been scripted.    

Eden Duncan-Smith lived the hard knock life in 2016's Annie

Though she's largely been making a name for herself of late for stirring performances in meditative, socially-conscious shows and movies, Eden Duncan-Smith's breakout role was cut from slightly lighter cloth. That role came in the 2014 re-imagining of the 1982 classic family-dramedy-musical Annie.

The modern version of that story follows roughly the same plot line as the original, with a charismatic young orphan named Annie (portrayed by Beasts of the Southern Wild breakout Quvenzhanè Wallis) eventually finding favor and family in the guise of a fantastically wealthy businessman played by Jamie Foxx. Though witty and refreshingly aware for such light-hearted fare, Annie proved more than a little bit divisive when it hit theaters. This was so much the case that the film both was nominated for a pair of Golden Globe awards and won a not-so-coveted Golden Raspberry for Worst Remake.     

Whether you loved or loathed the modern take on Annie, few could argue the film's talented young cast didn't bring some serious charm and energy to the proceedingswith young Wallis delivering another charismatic turn in the titular role. The same could be said as well for her foster "sisters" in the film, with the disparate group of youngsters each managing to put their stamp on a character that might otherwise have played as purely stock. That includes Eden Duncan-Smith, of course, who more than leaves her mark on the role of one of Annie's besties, Isabella.