Jeffrey Wright‘s latest stop on his “American Fiction” press tour was a cast interview with Entertainment Weekly in which he shocked his co-stars with a story about how he once refused a studio’s request to censor his dialogue. The Emmy winner starred in Ang Lee’s 1999 Civil War drama “Ride With the Devil” as a former slave fighting for his freedom.
“In this scene in which he has this kind of the apex of his awakening and his need to emancipate himself, he says, ‘Being that man’s friend was no more than being his n—–. And I will never again be anyone’s n—–,’” Wright remembered. “And it’s such a self-empowering statement and understanding of the word.”
“The studio at the time was so conflicted about how we market it. Ultimately, they decided we don’t need to market it at all,” Wright continued. “Then they had me come do the airplane version of the dialogue. They said, ‘The [N-word] here, we’d like to change that to negro’ or whatever the choice was. I said, ‘Nah. That’s not happening.’ And they found some other actor to come in and do that one word, apparently, so that the airplane folk would be comfy in the darkness of their own ignorance around the language of race.”
Wright’s “American Fiction” co-star Tracee Ellis Ross grabbed his shoulder in shock at the story and said, “No they did not! Are you serious?”
“Are you serious?” co-star Sterling K. Brown also asked.
“Ride With the Devil” was an adaptation of Daniel Woodrell’s novel “Woe to Live On” and featured a cast that included Tobey Maguire, Skeet Ulrich, Mark Ruffalo and Jewel in her feature film debut. The film was a box office flop.
Wright currently stars in “American Fiction,” which has garnered him best actor nominations from the Golden Globes, Critics Choice Awards and Independent Spirit Awards. Based on Percival Everett’s 2001 novel “Erasure,” the film stars Wright as a frustrated author who earns widespread acclaim and popularity after jokingly writing a book filed with Black stereotypes out of spite. The film is now playing in theaters nationwide.