On last night’s episode of CBS’ “60 Minutes,” there was a segment on Denzel Washington you may have missed, but should check out.
In conjunction with this weekend’s very limited opening of “Fences,” which Washington both directs and stars in, the actor talked to Bill Whitaker about what he called his passion project (“Fences”), which will open wide on Christmas Day. He directs and stars in the movie, opposite two-time Tony winner Viola Davis, set in late 1950s/early 1960s Pittsburgh. Adapted from the play by August Wilson, Fences is one of ten works in Wilson’s American Century Cycle. Washington is producing the other nine for HBO.
The piece, which features contributions from Washington’s co-star Viola Davis, also covers Washington’s past work, his ability to disappear into his characters, his love of directing, his motivation and process for directing and acting, entering the “4th quarter” of his career at 61 years old, and more.
One item worth highlighting from the profile is that the 9 remaining August Wilson plays – which he will bring to HBO over the next decade – will not all be directed by him; at least not the next one. He’ll definitely produce, which means that there could be some worthwhile work here for a handful of black directors… potentially. Washington plans to refocus on acting for now. When Whitaker asks him: “So what’s next? Are you enjoying this directing?” Washington replies: “I won’t be directing any time soon. No… no…” He then makes a half joke about having bills to pay, adding that acting is what really pays the bills for him: “Do what you gotta do so you can do what you wanna do,” he said. “I just did what I want to do, now I got to get back to what I gotta do.”
The next Wilson play to be adapted, which will be the first under his agreement with HBO, will reportedly be “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” as we shared on this blog last week. It’s expected to premiere on HBO in 2017, so if Washington says he has no plans to direct any time soon, and will instead focus on acting for a little while, it’s very unlikely that he’ll be directing the “Ma Rainey’s” and maybe even the next one or 2 after that.
Coincidentally, a new production of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” directed by Phylicia Rashad, recently closed (in October) at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. Tony-winner Lillias White played the title role. She was joined by Keith David, Glynn Turman and Damon Gupton. Assuming it will be the next adaptation of Wilson’s plays produced by Washington, it wouldn’t at all surprise me if Rashad and her cast reprise their directing and starring roles for the HBO film.
Watch the 15-minute “60 Minutes” piece on/with Washington below (Note: if the video doesn’t play, click here to watch it on CBS’ website):