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January 2008
An Interview with Jeffrey Wright

An Interview with Jeffrey Wright

By Wilson Morales

February 4, 2008

What attracted you to the film?

Jeffrey Wright: It was a story about my community. It was an opportunity to tell a story about a familiar place. I was out of the country when the blackout occurred so I was unaware until I heard about it. Then I heard different stories from the folks I know in New York and I wanted to be a part of this film to tell their story in a way.

In the film, you play Nelson" the owner and pillar of the local barbershop. Barbers are in some ways the Switzerland of the community. It’s where folks come in and tell all sorts of stories, and they act impartial to what they hear. Did you see it like that with your character?

JW: Yes, he provided the forum for other people to be in. It’s where they can go in and share all sorts of opinion, especially during a blackout, where it’s a no-holds barred of opinions.

How was shooting in Brooklyn?

JW: You know, I’ve never been on a film set that merged the film completely with the surrounding community. While we shooting in the barbershop, people were still getting a haircut. The line between reality and film set was merged and it was wonderful that way. It built an organic relationship with the community just to give the stories in the film some life to it. It was a fantastic experience. They were some people who walked past the set that ended up in the movie because Jerry wanted to create a sense of authenticity. The people of the community helped create that feeling.

How was working with the cast?

JW: The cast was wonderful. Everyone had a story to tell. Although it had a modest budget, and it was a guerilla experience, everyone formed a community around the project and we became very close.

Can you describe coming off a studio film to doing this film?

JW: I just came off shooting ‘Syriana’, which was a wonderful film, and although it was a big budget film, there was a sense that the artists were playing parts that had an independent feel to it, even though it was a big budget film. With ‘Blackout’, of course we had budgetary constraints, but the filmmakers made something out of the story, which is another reason I did. It gave an opportunity for the filmmakers, actors, and writers to really get involved with the project.

With the next James Bond film you are appearing in, will we see Felix Leiter do more in ‘Quantum of Solace’ than he did in ‘Casino Royale’?

JW: Well, Leiter’s role in ‘Casino Royale’ was an introduction, and he as well is somewhat shadowy. He’s covert, but he and James Bond are also guided by a moral compass and that’s why he and James Bond are able to work well together. You will more of his spin of the world.

Although it’s a different director, is it comfortable to replay a character?

JW: Marc Forster is a wonderful director and he too has grown up watching the Bond films and he has some ideas on where to take the character. Martin Campbell was very organized and brought a lot to the franchise with his experience and Marc is very different. Marc knows what he wants and will add his style to it.

Are you prepared to take on the musical lessons for your role as Muddy Waters in ‘Cadillac Records’?

JW: I’m not prepared yet. I have a little time before I take on the role, but I have been listening to a lot of his recordings and that was one of the reasons why I chose the role; to show what he did culturally, and to show where the music was born out of, and what the music represents historically, the art of modern music. These guys were creating an art form. The music came from a specific place, from a specific need, to express a specific freedom. I’ve been brushing up on my music.

Why should we see ‘Blackout’?

JW: Go see ‘Blackout’ because it’s a great film. It’s a film about some real lives set in Brooklyn and it’s told from their perspective. There will be some validation about a lot of stories and folks will appreciate it.

BLACKOUT comes out on DVD on February 5, 2008


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