How did you become involved with Honeydripper?
“I first got to know John Sayles [director] by his work. There was the possibility of doing a couple of films with him - Return of the Secaucus Seven and Brother from Another Planet - but in the end they were made without me. That’s why when Honeydripper came along I was so excited. We were trying to film it in 2005, although we had to wait until 2006 to be able to put the money together. I was working on four other films that year, so I had to fit the shoot of Honeydripper into a three week period.”
What interested you about your character Tyrone Purvis?
“When we look at history, we tend to identify a landmark decision or a law that’s passed, or a large movement, but there are always people who proceed that movement and Tyrone’s one of them. He’s a black businessman in Alabama in 1950 and what makes him such a revelation is that he owns his own business, the Honeydripper Lounge. He’s somebody who has challenged his perceived destiny, and the rock and roll music he introduces into his club is a metaphor for all the changes about to occur in America.”
What was John Sayles like to work with?
“He’s a real collaborator: he has his own sound ideas about shooting a scene and he listens to other peoples’ ideas. Howard Clerman, one of the fathers of American theatre, once said that the secret of getting good performances was casting, casting, casting. John works with people he’s worked with before and he brings new faces in, and it’s all in the story.”