Barry Jenkins, Stefan James, James Baldwin discussed on Q

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| WNYC 93.9 FM


Radio one Sirius XM one sixty nine from public radio international, which goes by PRI, Tom Howard. I don't know you might be in a reflective mood these days as the year winds down. You might be thinking, man. My twenty eighteen was productive. Terrible miraculous or involved way. Too much Ford innate now and filled with regret whatever adjective you'd stick in there. I want to tell you about someone who's had a pretty amazing year. Scarborough Ontario is very own Stefan. James, you might have seen him in the show homecoming on Amazon prime opposite an up and coming new actor named Julia Roberts, Stefan earned himself Golden Globe nomination for that role. He just wrapped the action movies seventeen bridges. And now he's the lead in the new Barry Jenkins film. If Beale street could talk Barry Jenkins, by the way on the show the guy who directed moonlight. But I like to think guy who was once. Thank you is the first dimension. But not too bad. Right. It feels like Stefan. Is about to become a really big deal. And so what does it feel like to be suddenly gathering this sort of crazy momentum so early in your career, and it's only twenty five years old? He's going to tell us all about it, Stefan James joins me live in the Q studio. Welcome to the show. How are you man? I'm great. Thanks. We have nice to see you. Good to see you home for the holidays. Is that why you're home? Yeah. But also here to talk to you, man. The reason you came. He said mom, I'm going to be able to make it home this year. But only if I could do an interview on public radio. But you guys do at the holidays. What's the just a lot of family time? You know, we, you know, we're not too big on gifts at the the gift of time with family is like the biggest the biggest thing for us, especially because he must not see them too often. We don't we don't as kind of rough nowadays being so nomadic, but it's going to be home man, you know, on the way in we were talking about how we both sort of remembered that we had spoken before TV show. And I think I had congratulated you on a Canadian screen award for raise. Now, I congratulate you on your first Golden Globe nominations. Yeah. Thank you. How does that feel incredible? And weird, you know, like now people like me Golden Globe nominees defined James. It's like it's like a part of my real name now. So it's kind of cool. I hope you insist that your friends call you that too. Yeah. Everyone where where do you find that out if someone call you or? Yeah, it's crazy. I got I was in my hotel room in Los Angeles. And I got a call the morning of the nominations that woke me up out of my sleep. I at an ungodly hour like five AM, and I work with. To my publicists like screaming top of her lungs that I had been nominated. I couldn't really make it out in the first few seconds by you know, it took me a while to put tune through together. And and you know, I just had a minute to to take it all in. That's something very meaningful about that. And I think it's especially meaningful you dedicated your nomination to Scarborough. Yeah. Always always man Scarborough means so much to me I wear on my back pretty much everywhere. I go talk a little bit more about that. But I you got the Golden Globe for the TV drama. Homecoming are your hair though to talk about if Beale street talk, the new film from Barry Jenkins who who made moonlight. It's based on a novel by James Baldwin, you play Fani this young man, this artist who's been falsely accused of rape is in prison awaiting trial. What what is it that brought you to this character? Brought you to this story. I mean for one very Jenkins, you know, I've been a big fan of Barry for a long long time. And then obviously James Baldwin the first time in James Baldwin's being adapted ever, you know, to have an opportunity to to bathe in. Men's language and be a part of such an iconic piece of literature. You know that that really struck me as something that was important. Tell me a little bit about the research. You did. Because I heard that even though this film is set in the nineteen seventies. You were looking towards real world stories inspiration. Yeah. Yeah. Actually, my biggest source of inspiration for this. Character was a young man by the name of Khalif Browder who in New York City in two thousand and ten was charged with petty theft of a backpack crime that he didn't commit and he was sent away to Rikers island for three years two and a half of what she spent in solitary confinement knows a sixteen year old boy, and this story really really really hit home to me because I didn't have to dig back to the nineteen sixties and nineteen seventies to find an example of this. I only had to look back to two thousand ten quite frankly, I probably could have looked back to like a couple of weeks ago. Yeah. Right to find someone to to based his character off of. But ultimately, it was me feeling like these stories aren't told enough. You know, they're not told enough in film, and I told enough in documentaries and this. Allows us to sort of bring a voice to the voiceless bring a level of humanity to these guys who often get written office statistics. I know exactly what you mean. When I was watching if Beale street could talk again it set in the nineteen seventies in New York. But I was forgetting all the time. You like the Romans. I would be I would see an old car, and I'd be rhyme reminded. Oh, wait. This isn't now. Right, right. I think that's the the beauty in. Maybe the unfortunate, you know, timelessness of Baldwin that those words that he wrote in nineteen seventy four they resonate so heavily today, including as a Canadian telling a story about America. Yeah. Yeah. Of course. I mean, you know, to me, I think the first bombing actress, I gotta do my Tom Demere research. But you know, a lot of these problems are, you know, Canadians, aren't, you know, they're not different from from this experience is not different. So you know, I wish I could say that I had a totally different perspective. But a lot of these things are familiar to me as well. So growing up in Scarborough, I read this that not a lot of the reason you're an actor. But some of the reason you're an actor is because your mom used to give you VHS tapes. Yeah. Oh, man. We had the biggest like VHS collection ever like on the planet like hundreds of VHS. S's, and we me and my brothers used to just watch movies all day long. Like what what what was she given? You know, line king like the fun stuff. But it was always something for us to I think honesty looking back in. I think it was a way for her to keep us in the house. Right. Right. But honestly, I just had so much time. And so many memories from taking in like cinema with my brothers. So is it is it is it a situation where you're watching television, you go like, oh, I I can do that. I wanna do that. I don't know that I ever had that right? I think I just sorta like took baby steps put one foot in front of the other. You know, I started doing theater in high school and was like, I wonder what film and television would be like, and then I got myself a manager. And then it's kind of like, okay, I guess all auditioning. See if I if I get stuff, and then I started to get stuff, and you know, sorta just stacked one thing on top of the other. Well, let me know if I'm getting too of here because I'm just I'm a musician. I have no acting experience whatsoever. But I'm always curious about what motivates someone to want to inhabit somebody else? Let's do inhabit someone else's story. Well, I mean, sometimes it's it's an escape, you know. It's a it's a form of expression who is gay for you. Yeah. For for for the artists. I think you know, being someone outside of yourself. It's it's, you know, it's an interesting sort of feeling, and then, you know, sometimes it feels important it feels necessary, for instance, with this character just felt like it was bigger than me. You know, I felt like this story needed to be told because, you know, no, nobody gets, you know, these stories get told no one gets to give these characters voice and give them a level of humanity. And and so to me, there's that responsibility. It's like fulfilling my duty and my purpose as an as an artist if you're just tearing speaking with Stefan James about the new Barry Jenkins film, if Beale street could talk Barry Jenkins next project after his film moonlight which won the best picture Academy Award twenty seventeen. And I heard you were telling people I wanna work with Barry Jenkins one day before you got the role. Yeah. Is that right? I mean, it sounds crazy. But I I kinda you know, I really believe in. The like speaking things into fruition and into existence easy. If you say it out loud, it'll come tell everybody like all my friends. They'd be like, oh, I'm gonna make a movie with bay Jenkins. And not sure when it's going to be, but it's going to happen. And you know, I honestly didn't expect for it to be this soon for it to be literally his follow up to best picture moonlight. But so grateful that this is it. So I'm always so nervous about this. Because sometimes I have I have focusing on the show, and I'm a huge fan of their work. I'm not going to say any names. But then you meet them, and you go. Oh god. Yeah. You know what? I mean. I'm not I'm not gonna make you say anybody's name. But I I know you've also had that we've met people, you know, bare naked ladies. No. I'm only joking not they're very very nice. Me too. But you meet you meet people in you're kind of like, oh, come on. I can't even watch your movies, right? So how did the actual experience of working with Barry Jenkins match up to the expectation of working with Barry? I think it may have exceeded it is that so, yeah, he's a, you know, Beijing is a special special filmmaker he has an incredible for storytelling. He's remarkably patient of. I don't think I've ever met a director. Who's is patient? He is, and you know, and honestly, surprisingly, very relaxed. You know, he has this thing about him where you know, he's just able to keep everybody in a really chilled relaxed environment. You know, keep an intimate space feeling comfortable. So so it's, you know, it's a healthy space for the actors to be vulnerable to try things to fail to look silly. And you know, he sort of embraces all that and allows you time and space to find yourself within these characters which is something I really appreciate what what a challenging role. It is to work in his films because an NFL people haven't seen it yet. So they, but when they see it they'll look at ninety it's such a quiet film. There are long stretches with no dialogue or just one piece of Donald. That's that's an acting. I don't even know like an Olympics acting. Yeah. I mean, and that's the big credit to bury that he sort of allowed those moments to live like he doesn't rush anything as a director. I think that you it allows the audience to experience things in real time to to feel like they're a part of the story in a way. But I I love that. You didn't feel like you're over your head at all. I love the UN, Dan like there's it can be scary to work with winning your hair. I mean a little daunting. I'm not gonna act, you know, like, I just walked in on nonchalant. You know, it is James Baldwin, and it's very tank ins, and you wanna be able to to do both of those legacies Justice. But it's a big big credit to berry in the environment. He created for us. And you know, what they say that? It's been Oprah say when preparation meets opportunity. Yeah. Exactly. That's exactly what it is. Exactly. I also heard that I'm quoting Oprah. Here this morning, by the way, I'm making fun of bare naked, ladies and quoting Oprah. I heard that Barry Jenkins let you take offered a little while to do the chemistry tests with Julia Roberts for for her. Homecoming is that right? Yeah. This is. Okay. So this is crazy..

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