April 2002
Q&A with Sydney Poitier

Interviewed by Niambi Sims

Q&A with Sydney Poitier


NS: You have been the only African American actor who has had an Oscar for a leading role; do you feel that Hollywood has changed enough?

SP: ďEnoughĒ becomes the keyword. Things have changed clearly. The question becomes to what degree has there been change? I have a position on it and I donít want to raise it here because it is not the forum to discuss such things.


NS: Are you satisfied with the progress that Hollywood has made in including minorities in films?

SP: Well your question is valid, but partially loaded, in that you can see, as well as I can see that there has been change. And I think to speak of Hollywood as if there has not been a change is unfair. You can question the pace of it. You can even question how long it will last. But you must first take note of the fact that there has been change. Denzel Washington stands shoulder to shoulder with the best actors that ever lived for my money. Morgan Freeman stands as one of the best actors in the world. Wesley Snipes is an extraordinary actor. Larry Fishburne is a great actor. We have lots of African American actors. Now, when we didnít have any, I appeared. Not because I brought so much but because the time was right, the circumstances were right. The world was at a certain place and my career happened to catch hold at that time. The world has changed and is continuing to change. I am hopeful that there will be minority actors, not just African American or Hispanic or Asian, but a real diversified Hollywood in the future. Certainly, if not in mine, because my days are numbered, but in yours and your childrenís.


NS: Was there a particular moment in a particular film where you felt you were in complete control of your craft and were really confident in your abilities?

SP: No. There was always room for improvement, always room for change, always betterment somewhere in the performance. I function as an actor organically. I cannot read words I donít feel. I canít remember them. I felt okay about some films. I felt a little better about others. Sometimes I wasnít satisfied sufficiently.


NS: Can you talk about how it feels to be a pioneer and people who were pioneers for you?

SP: Well, itís not my place to put that label on myself. I try to have my life unfold as much as a result of my own dictate than external circumstances. I try to choose my own path. I donít do it with an aim to impress anyone. I do it because of my values, ethics, my point of view, how I see things and how I feel. I will respond to life commensurate to those elements. I am not, from my point of view, a pioneer. I didnít try to set the pace for others. I tried to set a pace for my own values and if someone saw that and felt that they were of use to them then I am blessed.