"As one who loves literature, art, music and history, I've been deeply rooted in the Harlem Renaissance for many years.
I actually did a film called Stompin' at the Savoy,about four women who worked as domestics and were trying to get out of that life and into a better one.
But that is such a rich era, and it's the era my parents grew up in -- they were young lovers at that time."
"There are certain things they would say then that we don't quite say now. I had never heard the term 'old settler,' which refers not to the Old West but to a woman who is over 40 and has never been married and doesn't seem to have any prospects. This more or less is what Quilly and Elizabeth [The Old Settler's main characters] are at this point in their lives.
Phylicia [Rashad, Debbie Allen's co-star and real-life sister] and I had two aunts who were very much like these two women. We remembered how they dressed. Phylicia and I grew up in the South, so we could also relate to that part of the story.
People are very slow to make changes there. They may wear the same hairdo for 30 years.The houses never change, so I could talk about the doilies and pictures of Frederick Douglass and Lincoln that would be on the walls. So being steeped in this period is natural for both of us due to our upbringing by our mother, Vivian Ayers, who is an artist and poet."
"Michael Ralph brilliantly plays the street prophet, a West Indian who foreshadows the Harlem riot.
The riot isn't seen in the movie, but it is alluded to. He has this one speech that gives a great sense of texture and paints a picture of what was happening in Harlem then."
Crowd Outside the Savoy, Harlem
Mantelpiece from The Old Settler set with real pictures of Debbie Allen & Phylicia Rashad as children
Michael Ralph as a West Indian street prophet