Eight Weeks, Forty Scenes, Carlson discussed on Larry Wilmore: Black on the Air


It is my pleasure to welcome his gentlemen to the show. It might as work for a while. now. I mean from beautiful midnight bill street. I mean everything he does is like this beautiful. Just lush portrait. And he's done it again with the limited series amazon. The underground railroad based on colson. Whitehead book that was pose prize winning. I believe and mr barry jenkins welcome to black air. Hey thank you for having me man. It's a pleasure it it's such a pleasure You know i'm a big fan. I gave you got the dvd or berry. Go take take the man. What an achievement. This is you have to feel proud to have this On the air right now and yeah. I am proud man especially because it was It was such a heavy Such a heavy to bear the living. And yet i do think that you know when i watch it or when when people watch it you know all that effort is very clearly on the screen. So yeah i am. Proud of is the best way to describe the feeling i have towards it. Yeah that's great when you can get it on the screen and all that effort is not off the screen that is a winning thing It's funny because i hosted the national book. Awards the year that costa one for this for underground railroad and I remember at the time you know it was such a different environment. You know than it is now yet. We were just coming out of that. I just finished in the nightly show but we had just come out of a lot of things with police in other kind of stuff until a lot of You know. I would say the undercurrent of racial issues was kinda blowing this summer. Kind of in that right now. You know not not bad. It's ever gone away. My lifetime you know so to speak How did you know you wanted to make this. We were you a fan of the book when it came out that you get a did you know about it before. It was kind of a combination of all that. I had been a fan of colson since his first book. Intuition is not actually tried to adapt intuition us around two thousand nine to ten clinton get a hold of it and as a kid always been obsessed with the concept of the underground railroad. At when i heard the words. I saw black people on trains underground because the education system didn't fill in the gaps. I was allowed to have that vision For maybe a couple of weeks and then we got to that chapter during black history month. And i realized that. Oh this is what the underground railroad actually is But that feeling. I a kid always stayed with me and so i heard about colson book before reading it. I just heard colson. Whitehead wrote a book about the underground railroad where the railroad real and i was like. Oh i have got to get my hands on that. I actually read the book before it released and before. Moonlight released as well alone jumped on costa as bra. You gotta let me have this And so we met. And i told him. Don't do it as a film. I wanted to it as a limited series and that was even before moonlight premiered. And so this thing has been with me since before. Anybody was aware of who barry jenkins was which i think is a thing because it wasn't dictated by the success of that film. It was already in process absolutely which is great. Which really shows. Because you bring such a ano- there's a familiarity may be is the right word with with wanting to destroy. I mean it's such a. it is such a live metaphor anyway. Underground railroad in the movie works on so many different levels with. I don't wanna use the word fantasy as much as i think. Alternate is probably a better word But this notion of that. Underground road has fantastical elements that have to be the right tone in the same movie with the realities of slavery. Correct yeah correct and you know as you said the book warm pulitzer prize and national book. I believe so. It's a damn good book you know howson's done a lot of really diligent work to make sure that in the you know alternate Alternate reality or the alternative history still based in some element of truth and so. I love that. No-one libra tastes in this book to a certain degree And i even said we were making the film or making the show. Excuse me yeah you. No one's going to levitating are what real trains running through actual tunnels Again because when i was a kid my granddad was a longshoreman. Him put on his hard hat and the steel toe boots and go off to work. And i thought oh. Yeah people men like him. They built the underground railroad in. I think in adapting the book to the screen. Visually wanted to translate the things that i saw a child and it is a challenge. You know as i'm watching and the book is so fascinating too and it is funny how you think something's might be able to work in a novel. Pecan they really work. When you dramatize it because there is and you know this as director putting something on its feet is completely different than when it's on the page every rehearsal you find that out right. Did you have any concerns about like. Were you intimidated by any of this berry when you were first a putting pen to paper and and kind of planning out this whole limited series. Yeah i was intimidated by two different ways. The scale of it for sure you know i think of a feature film was very bespoke of process. You have four months to try to figure out forty scenes So you can give each seen. A great level of detail is almost like to jail. Just going to a private school where you have one teacher for every fifteen students. The eagles the big public school. Now you've got one teacher for every fifty students and so it's much more difficult to keep that same kind of bespoke education. The give the same attention so in that degree thought. Oh this is terrifying. I know how we're going to manage this. And then of course. The subject matter itself is very very delicate. Very triggering very explosive. And i knew even though. I don't have the same amount of time that i normally would have to work each of these things. This was a feature film. I have to almost get the more time Because the themselves are so incendiary the images so triggering that they demand extra special attention. What was the writing process like. Did you work with carlson on the writing process or did he advise you at all. Was he just there as a safety beacon if you needed him. What was that like. He was there as a safety beacon. You know he was really cool. You know one. He was writing another novel. That would get him a few was. But he's a fan of of cinema and colson is very very good about. What are the kids. I stay in your lane. You know he was like the book is mine and the show is yours as you said as you put us quickly i will be a safety beacon if you need to know more about this and more about that or of questions about anything. Reach out to me. And so we We adopted or adapted but we began the process in a writer's room. There were about five or six of us in it was eight weeks. This is a really intense writing process. And we just pull the book apart and tried to figure out as you were saying what can go from the pace screen and travel transition intact and then what else can we extend off of it. And anytime we're going to veer away from the narrative. I would reach out to colson and go. What do you think of this. It's your world your characters. does this fit in. In every time he was very supportive. There's only one idea at that. He that he shot down. It was a terrible idea. They now in hindsight the there's like the character grace Fan rigs great care the show. I just thought oh. Maybe there's a world where she in this kid homer are fraternal twins Because there were these instances were there were brothers and sisters who were separated. Families were split up all the time. What if there's a way that you can draw this line where you realise very late in the narrative that these two were these twins were separated at birth and grace ended up on the run and.

Coming up next