Rarely will a discussion between two Hollywood icons and a sports star be made public via a transcript. But that is what THR has provided. As the 2016 drama Fences drops on Christmas Day, co-stars Denzel Washington and Viola Davis joined former Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as they explored the deeper meanings and cultural relevance behind the flick.
Set in the 1950s and based off a play that followed the fallout of a retired Negro League player, Washington also took the reigns behind the camera as director. All while Jabbar opened up a discussion on the movie in a "post Obama" world. Alongside Suicide Squad's own Viola Davis, the pair thought the story would translate across generations.
Just How Political Is Fences?
Making it's debut on stage some 31 years prior in 1985, Jabbar quizzed both actors on their opinions as the relevance of the story to today.
"The circumstances, again, are universal," argued Washington. "It could happen to anyone. I don't know if it's more political now given the election or whatever, but it's a long way from Troy (Denzel's character) to now because now we're post-Obama even."
Davis went a step further, putting a barrier between the world of politics and the struggle of African Americans.
"I don't know why I don't see the play as political," admitted Davis. "I don't see it as representing something any bigger than a family and a man being born into a set of circumstances and maybe not taking ownership of how he's poisoning his family, which most of us don't. Some of us go to our grave never taking ownership. We just cause destruction around us. Arthur Miller said it, and August Wilson said it: When you notice all of the sins of your father, hopefully you can approach it with forgiveness and illumination. That's just life."
Narrative A Search For Belonging At The Heart
Sure to bring in a wave of Oscars buzz off the back of the two big name stars, Jabbar believes that Washington's Troy has a delusional concept of what it means to be a black man, flying in the face of downtrodden circumstances. Yet the actor-director thinks the wisdom he is trying to impart on his son Cory is something to behold regardless.
"Well, I love the things he says to his son about responsibility and taking care of his family," replied the 61-year old. "'Mr. Rand don't give me my money because he like me. He give it to me because he owe me.' In my own life, I had a male teacher who was trying to teach me things that I didn't believe — how you should treat women and things like that — but I knew better. But Cory doesn't know better."
And the underlying themes in the subtext continue to resonate with the female lead just as much.
"They're all trying to find this reason to matter, a place in the world," states Davis. "When I look at Fences, with Cory needing a connection with his father, Troy, his disconnect from his father to me is even more relevant in his life than not making it to the football league. That is a theme in all of Wilson's plays, the need to matter."