Denzel Washington participated in a conference call with select media on December 22, ahead of the Christmas Day release of his Oscar buzzed about “Fences” film that co-stars Viola Davis. The story centers on “a father, a mother, and a son – all the things they say to each other – and the things left unsaid.”
Washington says the reception to the film has been “tremendous.”
“People ask me, ‘Well what do you want people to get from this film?’ and I always tell them it depends upon what you bring to it,” Washington said. “Because I’ve been doing Q&A’s around the world and there’s a lot of son and father issues that people have been taking about across color lines. The story of the relationships is universal.”
The Oscar-winning movie star won a Tony Award for his Broadway role in the August Wilson play, which is set in the playwright’s native Hill District in 1957. The local is a historic African-American collection of neighborhoods in the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Washington returned to the city to shoot the big screen adaptation because, “I wanted to be where it took place where August is from,” he said.
The married father of four described the experience like “being at home,” because the locals were so warm, inviting and extremely excited that Washington made them feel like they too were part of the production. To show his gratitude for their hospitality, he hosted a screening for the crew and the people of The Hill.
“Everybody was so dressed and cleaned and so proud that it took place right there, literally in their backyard,” he said.
Washington previously confirmed that he will next take on Wilson’s story of 1920s blues singer, Ma Rainey, aka “Mother of The Blues.”
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is set in Chicago 1927, and centers on issues of race, art, religion and the historic exploitation of Black recording artists by White producers.
Washington described taking on Wilson’s catalogue as, “an opportunity for us to tell our stories written by one of our greatest writers, and it’s an opportunity for us to give our young actors and older actors that don’t get a chance to get those great parts, or to be in those great movies — and to give us the opportunity for eight or nine other young African American directors, or whatever age, to tell those stories.”
Fences is Washington’s third film in the director’s chair after “Antwone Fisher” and “The Great Debaters,” and he’s hoping black audiences in particular show support this weekend by taking their families, friends and church groups to see the film.
“We can’t complain about what’s not being done if we don’t show up. I have a nine picture deal to produce the other nine films. In the nine plays that I’m producing there’s at least 100 or 150 roles, and we can’t complain about the lack of roles, cause there’s roles from one of the greatest writers in American history ready to go,” he explained, adding: “But it’s called show business. It ought to be called business show because the next show will be predicated by the business we do here. So not only it is important for us to go out and support because it’s a good story, but it’s important to go out and support so that we can continue to tell all of his stories. I plan to put out these films within about a 10-15 year period from one of the greatest writers in the history of American theater.”
Washington also noted that “Fences” is a “film that keeps on giving.”
“You learn so much from it. You love it, you laugh, you cry — and the absolute brilliance of Viola Davis. She will win the Academy Award, I’m telling you know. She’s going to win.”
The media conference call was organized by Values Partnerships, which has worked with Paramount Pictures, the Campaign for Black Male Achievement, and other partners to develop several campaigns in support of Washington and the film, including #AcrossTheFence, Community Screenings with the Ford Motor Company Fund, and Share Your August.
To advance the theme of family healing, Values Partnerships launched the program called ACROSS THE FENCE, through which Russell Simmons, V. Bozeman, Ludacris, Tina Lifford, Morris Chesnut and many others posted video messages, photos, works or art, music, and other messages to family members using the hashtag #AcrossTheFence.
View more posts on the #AcrossTheFence site by clicking here.
“This is not a one off. This is a 15 year project of mine and I’m going to take care of August Wilson, and nothing’s going to get in my way,” said Washington. “Every year I’ve been on this Earth has prepared me for this moment, and I promise you all, I’m going to deliver.”
“Fences” opens in theaters Christmas Day.