We’d never get away with it on screen.”
What about that little story about “Roots”?
“[T]he movie was very much set in Africa — which is where I’ve always loved it most. But we spent all those years doing the science fiction movie, and in the beginning, everyone was writing us “real” science fiction movies. So in the beginning of the movie, we’re not even showing you that we shot a story in Africa. They were telling me, “Well, we don’t have a story set in Africa, so how can we shoot a story in Africa?” It was like, do you want to come down to the city?
Were the African influences on the movie also in the script?
It was more black. There was a story about an African slave who came to New York, and he wanted to get the money he needed to get into New York, but his family wanted him out of this life of slavery, so he’d like to escape. So he’d been through a lot of horrible abuse, all kinds of violence. But he was willing to face death to get the money he needed. So he kills himself, because he really wants to get to New York. There is this African motif in the character that’s really there from the beginning. He comes down to New York City in a race car.
Then you were talking about “The Abyss,” where you play an African slave in the film. It’s an interesting character, given the history of your work. Did you have any thoughts about making a film with him or on that character?
It wasn’t my idea to work on that character. I knew that he was the character that people would love. I have done other films with black characters. I’ve done films with a man born on the same continent as mine named King Krule-Masham (Krane) — he’s a former slave. I do these historical films that focus on the history of slavery.
I didn’t want to do that on the film. I was like, “Well, what do I know? I’m working on a slave film.” And we sat down and started working on the character. I wanted to have a character who is real and honest, who’s not ashamed of his name. So I told him, “If you want to play the African character, you’re doing it this way — you’re not going to wear this African outfit.”
We made a decision
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