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Jenkins & Jones

Barry Jenkins: “I thought, you know, “I’m a real smart cat. I’ve been doing this for twenty years, there’s a crew, there are actors, and I know exactly what we’re doing. And I know that nothing I’m going to deal with is even remotely comparable to what my ancestors dealt with.” And yet we’re in the same actual spaces. I do believe that somehow, you know, we were on the same soil, and it would catch up to me. There was a day when I just walked myself off set and said nothing to nobody — which is very expensive on a show this big. When I’m not present, nothing happens. There was another day we had a guidance counselor. She tapped me and then pulled me off my own set. I said, “Yo, you can’t pull me off set, man! I’ve got to be strong for the crew. They see me talking to you, man, they go, ‘Something is wrong.’” She was like, “Yeah, you’ve got to be strong for them, but who’s going to be strong for you when you break down?” And so we had a little session, I unleashed some things, and then I got back to it. But I felt this responsibility. And there’s been a lot of talk about sacrifice, very heinously in regard to the Chauvin trial and the murder of George Floyd. In this case, our ancestors sacrificed by continuing to live through all this degradation. There was something about really understanding that, and I’m walking around these sets and literally seeing my ancestors — I can hug them. It was cool to be there and realize, “Yes, my ancestors were enslaved, but let’s push past that. They were blacksmiths, they were midwives. They were herbalists, they were spiritualists.” Reaffirming that every day, it’s built up almost like this muscle layer where eventually I understood, okay, I’m running this long marathon. And when the show is done, I get to hand the baton to someone the same way Nikole Hannah-Jones handed it to me when she finished ‘The 1619 Project.’ In that way, I got my wind up and I was ready to go.”

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