Samuel L. Jackson is back on Broadway for the first time in a decade in “The Piano Lesson,” the new production of the August Wilson play directed by Jackson’s wife, LaTanya Richardson Jackson. In a keynote conversation at Variety‘s 2022 Business of Broadway breakfast, the busy Marvel movie star revealed what he misses most about appearing onstage regularly.
Listen to this week’s “Stagecraft” podcast below:
“The audiences are a thing that I love,” he said during the discussion, which is now available as part of the latest episode of Variety‘s theater podcast, Stagecraft. “I love the energy of it, which is one of the reasons that I’m back. You do enough movies or you do enough TV or whatever, and you miss people applauding for you. You miss feeling the shift of that energy that’s going on. Because, you know, grips and ADs and other people [on a film set], they don’t care. … Nobody applauds you and goes, ‘That was great!’”
He also made it clear why he doesn’t do more stage work, much as he’d like to: “If theater paid like the movies, I wouldn’t do movies!”
Also as part of the Variety keynote, LaTanya Richardson Jackson — who is the first woman to direct a Wilson play on Broadway — discussed how she approaches directing after a long career as an actor.
“I try to have a vision of what the playwright wrote but didn’t necessarily see,” she said. “My mentor, Douglas Turner Ward, told me that great playwrights write, and at the end of what they have written, it’s not necessarily something that they intended. He said that great writers are visited by spirits and that they write from that vantage point, and it’s a director’s job to see that. To see the Other.”
Also available on the new episode of Stagecraft is the Broadway breakfast’s panel discussion with four of the producers bringing shows to the stage this season: Lee Daniels (“Ain’t No Mo’”), Ken Davenport (“A Beautiful Noise”), LaChanze (“Topdog/Underdog,” “Kimberly Akimbo”) and Cindy Tolan (“Death of a Salesman”). Each of them talked about the varied career paths that led them to producing, and pinpointed their goals in producing for Broadway.
“Theater is not meant for Black people, unless you want to see Denzel or Viola cry, or Sam Jackson or something fabulous, or take my mom to see The Temptations — but it’s not meant for my nephews,” said Daniels (“Empire,” “Precious”). “We have to find our space. I hope ‘Ain’t No Mo’ will make my cousins and my nephews that would buy a pair of Nike sneakers, or go to a Rihanna concert — that they will take this as seriously as their Nike sneakers. I hope I do it. Wish me luck!”
The writer-star of “Ain’t No Mo’,” Jordan E. Cooper, was part of another panel discussion at the breakfast, appearing alongside actor Crystal Lucas-Perry (“1776”) and Chris Wood (“Almost Famous”). In that conversation, all three talked about Broadway’s efforts to be more inclusive and to make the rehearsal room a safe space.
“That’s a beautiful shift that we’ve taken as a community,” Cooper said. “To really look at the introspection of our own mental health as we do the work that we need to do.”
To hear the full conversations, listen at the link above or download and subscribe to “Stagecraft” on podcast platforms including Apple Podcasts, Spotify and the Broadway Podcast Network. New episodes of “Stagecraft” are released every other week.
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