Transcript:

Interviewer: Tell me the first film where you ever saw, Sidney.

James Earl Jones: The first film we were on a airplane, I just think I could go to the one that's most interesting and that's when I saw him and Cry, The Beloved Country, but I might have seen him in the Raurk film, Something of Value, I don't know which came first. Cry came first, 52, yeah ok.

Interviewer: 52.

James Earl Jones: 1952. Can we start again? Because I was waiting for the plane to pass.

Interviewer: Oh.

James Earl Jones: Do you mind?

Interviewer: Sure. OK, same question. What film did you first seem him in?

James Earl Jones: The first film I saw Sidney in was Cry... I'll do it again. The first film I saw sitting in was Cry The Beloved Country. It was a film he did with Canada Lee of the Alan Paton story back in 1952 in South Africa, which was heavily under apartheid, newly under apartheid. The film was set in 52. I think it was done around the same time because I was in college. I think,.

Interviewer: Where were you?

James Earl Jones: Pardon?

Interviewer: Where were you when you saw it?

James Earl Jones: University of Michigan.

Interviewer: You were in college?

James Earl Jones: Yeah, and Sidney was. He looked like a college student himself. And it worked very well for the character of the young priest he was playing. And he was.

Interviewer: What were you doing in college? What were you there for?

James Earl Jones: Well, it depends on what year it was. I started out as premed. Then I switched to drama department in my junior year before I went to the army.

Interviewer: So when you saw him, had you thought about becoming an actor?

James Earl Jones: I don't know. I thought I had been I didn't think I'd be. I didn't. I didn't think about being an actor. Even when I began acting studies, I thought about being a soldier. And the idea of being an actor didn't occur to me until after my service was almost finished. So, no, I just saw him as a as an appreciative audience.

Interviewer: What did you think when you saw him?

James Earl Jones: I said God, he really seems like an African. Seem to me the hardest thing for a black American actor to do. And I didn't know anything about Sidney then, eceptt he was from the Caribbean. I said that must be he has he has in touch with the non American sound, whatever that is. And, you know, if I if I try to sit up now, more than usual is because Sidney is straight. Sidney, sits up straight. Sidney, walk straight. He inspires us to all stand up straight, you know, so but he was standing up straight in that film and and he the combination of him and Canada was just wonderful.

Interviewer: Yeah. What a combination. What did what did seeing him and Canada up there mean to you?

James Earl Jones: Well, the whole thing about black actors in leading roles began to, you know, occurred to me. And before that, I don't think any. Hollywood sure didn't worry about it. You know, where was the box office there they'd say, you know. And blacks weren't in into complaining a lot about the images. I myself would watch John Wayne movies. I woke up to handle feeling like John Wayne. Didn't matter to me. I didn't need a black face to identify with, you know. But there was there was something that was missing in the American spectrum when I saw Jeff Turner playing all the Indians and not a real Indian. And I knew I was raised among Chippewa Indians and I knew what they looked like and what they were different culturally. And I kept wondering, well, why can't I see them playing Cochise and so on and. And Sidney being Sidney and also Harry, both being from the Caribbean, that was somehow much more feasible in a way because they were they weren't American black men. They were in touch with a different reality than guys like me from Mississippi, you know.

Interviewer: And what was your reality?

James Earl Jones: Their reality?

Interviewer: Your reality.

James Earl Jones: Oh mine. Mine was if I if I stayed in Mississippi, I would have been castrated. Probably psychologically, I would not I would not have been allowed at that age at for my puberty on at that time. I was born in 1933,31, rather. And when I came into my manhood, I would have been prime for lynching. Because I think all women are beautiful and I would have goggled women regardless of their color. And as Emmett Till, would have gotten into a whole lot of trouble, you know, that's not the only thing and the most important thing about segregation and discrimination, but it just is one that I always think about. If I hadn't moved to the north, I could easily have been a target.

Interviewer: Well, look at Willie McGee. I mean, my God, you know, I'm doing this thing on Bella Abzug. Willie McGee was living with a white woman. They've been living together for years. And yet her father accused him of raping her. I mean, that's why he was sent to his death, you know, so. So you were dealing with something very, very, absolutely real there.

James Earl Jones: McGee was the one who was executed twice right. Electrocuted twice.

Interviewer: I don't remember. But I know he was executed.

James Earl Jones: There was a case when I was at Michigan under all the law students having these ridiculous conversations about the right to do it again. You know, and I think it was McGee or one of those boys from Mississippi. But the point I'm getting at is that was our orientation. Sidney and Harry came to this country with a whole different orientation and not not just in their lifetimes and the whole spectrum of the African in this hemisphere, the Africans in the Caribbean were treated much more like prisoners, which means with more dignity. And the Africans in the USA under Protestant ethic were treated like animals because the Protestants couldn't admit that they were doing this to another fellow human being. So they switch, the whole focus say, well, this is only half a person with no soul. You can [bleep] the slave girls you wanted toand shoot all of the black buck you want to do. And it didn't really matter. And that was that was what the the Mississippi orientation set me in, you know.

Interviewer: What do you mean they were treated like prisoners in the Caribbean?

James Earl Jones: Much more. Well. Well, they had a soul. They were complete people. They were just in bondage. That's all. Bondage was the only thing. The difference today between a prison that treats you, you know, with not not respect, but as a total person and gives you a total a total life, gives you something to do in prison as one to treat you like a child or or not a total human being and treat you and gives you nothing. That was the difference. And it was all about the Protestant ethic. Catholic countries didn't have the quite the same problem. The French of Canada, the way they treated the Indians, they're not quite the same anymore than th... it was horrible, but not not the same of a robbing of the soul of the Catholics of of South America.

Interviewer: Right.

James Earl Jones: Same.

Interviewer: It's the way when I hear hunters say, you know, I get such an exhilaration when I kill a deer. It's an exhilaration.

James Earl Jones: It is too.

Interviewer: For them to hurt a black man because it's like a killing an animal.

James Earl Jones: Yeah.

Interviewer: But I don't see Sidney, as you know, I just finished his book and coming from Cat Island, which was the tiniest little place in the world, he was surrounded by black people. So he never had that sense of being discriminated against at all I dont think.

James Earl Jones: Right. But then I was surrounded by black people too. The different still is how your parents are treated. Sidney once said, I think at the the academy session we had the other day. There was a system set up for him in Florida when he first arrived here, he said it didn't work because of what his parents had given him. That is the the segregation system was set up for him. And it was, you know, his parents are giving him something better.

Interviewer: Oh, absolutely.

James Earl Jones: And a better defense against it. You know.

Interviewer: Who were the actors, black and white, whom you most admired up to that point? Well, John Wayne.

James Earl Jones: John Wayne, yeah. I don't know, I would have liked John Wayne as a person that I think would have hated him probably as a person. I had the chance to work with him once in Cowboys. He'd mellowed then, of course, and gone through the first defeat of the big C, and there was this movie about young cowboys and this older, you know, wagon Nazaryan and the black cook. And I was offered the role of the black cook and I turned it down and John called me. He says, Jones. He says, Why aren't you doing this role? I said, Well, because I don't know enough about cowboys. He says is too bad, but the fact that he called me was kind of nice, but I heard horrible things about him in terms of I think Willie Besse that was one of the black actors that was always in some in John Wayne's movies. And and one day the director asked Willie to do the eye rolling thing. Like a black man does, you know, especially in a state of fear and for some reason Willie I don't think that's funny in this scene. And he was an expert at it. And John says, why don't you think that's funny? And there was nothing Wilie could say to explain to John why he you know, they just wanted the eyes to roll. And maybe maybe I'm too hard on John Wayne. Maybe he was just simply unaware of this times more than a mean person, because that was the way things were. Jack, Jack Benny. I mean, Jack Benny was the only one of those that those those showmen that was not that way. Bob Hope was that way. And they all were that way. Bing Crosby, Bing Bing Crosby, they were all. It was easy to be bigoted. Why am I talking about the Hollywood politics here?

Interviewer: Right.

James Earl Jones: You asked me a question about Sidney.

Interviewer: Well, because Sidney was for a long time the only leading man who was also black in Hollywood.

James Earl Jones: Yeah.

Interviewer: And and how in the world that was accomplished, I have no idea. Do you?

James Earl Jones: No I don't because I did not focus on Hollywood then and don't now. It is a weird place. I think the fact that there was one was very important. We can handle one. Don't give us more than one.

Interviewer: But why Sidney?

James Earl Jones: Because his skin is very dark for one thing. That was probably a gesture as close as they could make to true Africa, you know, to the image of the dark, not the brown skin that Harry had or the thin nose that Lena Horne had, but to a truly African looking man. And beautiful, I think they're very, very proud of that, that they didn't choose a light skinned man. Black man, you know. Also, Sidney, as I say, was Caribbean as it was very different for the that establishment. But it may be important that there be only one.

Interviewer: What did you admire in him as an actor?

James Earl Jones: Well, I just talk about he's straight. There's a certain dignity that he he is and he insists upon from others, insist upon it in his roles. It's not that I would made those choices, but I admire the fact that he did that. He said once, if I don't mean to quote him, but that he he wanted to play roles where young black people, young boys in particular, would leave the theater saying, yeah, I can be a cop, I could be a psychologist, I can do this. I read them whatever they had thought they were going to end up being. But to elevate their horizons you know. That was his mission. Not unlike Gary Cooper, who has vowed never to play bad guys. He wanted to show the good side of life, you know, something positive. And those are noble missions. And maybe only men like Gary Cooper and Sidney Poitier could could, you know, find their way through their careers and stay faithful to that that that ideal. I don't know.

Interviewer: Um, I think the night you were there, when they were showing all the clips of his films, they showed A Raisin in the Sun. Did you see that?

James Earl Jones: I saw it on stage and in film.

Interviewer: You see, I saw something both in the Cassavetes film where he played that dockworker and in The Raisin in the Sun, which was like nothing that I'd seen before or since.

James Earl Jones: The the whatever, hampers an image.

Interviewer: Right.

James Earl Jones: If you want to be just a good guy, it leaves out a lot of edges. And these characters had edges. I mean, Walter Lee had scary edges and Sidney played them. I mean, he was he was scary at times. Yeah. The concite of Walter and the rage side of him, which is scary.

Interviewer: You know, I just got thrilled again. Yeah, yeah, but you know what, it was not noble.

James Earl Jones: Right.

Interviewer: But it was magnificent.

James Earl Jones: Yeah. Don't think it took those chances too often or he made sure that the the whatever edges the character had there were bent toward noble, you know.

Interviewer: Although, you know, and Lilies of the Field. I thought that was, you know, they did that in two weeks, but they made that in two weeks. Yeah, yeah. On three hundred and fifty thousand dollars, you know, Ralph Nelson did that and Lilies of the Field, I also felt that he was had such a common touch, you know, his humor, that whole Caribbean humor.

James Earl Jones: Oh, yeah, I was I was convinced that Harry had been the music in that. It is true, isn't it? It was Harry's voice.

Interviewer: I don't remember. Yeah, of course.

James Earl Jones: It sounded like Harry, Harry Belafonte, but whatever.

James Earl Jones: Sidney is not above the common touch. I mean, that's not the point of playing noble characters. I mean, it is rare to see him have fun, as he did in that movie, as he did and in the piece of the action get, you know, get down and get silly once in a while. That does not take away dignity. Yeah, yeah, I had a thought but it'll it'll come back to me, um. But what is what was unexpected. Go ahead.

Interviewer: All right. When did you and Sidney actually meet, when did you meet each other?

James Earl Jones: Sidney. Back when actors like Lou Gossett and Raymond Sinja, actors of my generation were not that much younger than Sidney, just we we were getting a little late to start than he was and didn't have quite quite the Roman candle, wonderful star shining. And but we Sidney would would would give us court now and then he and Bill Cosby and sometimes Sammy Davis Jr. and usually Harry Belafonte would take out Leon Beard maybe one night and go to the Theresa Hotel Theresa for a night or take me out, you know, or or take, you know, Clarence Williams came one of the black Rat Pack adoptee's, you know. He'd do that. I don't know why he did it. I like the fact that he did he call up, say, hey, you want to come hang out with us? You know, and it's a great, great thing for us to do to learn that the night he took us to the Copacabana when the Supremes was singing. And he and Harry went backstage and chewed those clothes out. I think it has to do with bubblegum music. And how they were wasting their talent. And how do they dare choose to help out, but they were on a mission around the time they come back from Europe with this condemnation of Europe about it being decadent and how whereas African-Americans used to think of Europe as the place to go for elevation of the freedom to soar. They said, no, don't don't kid yourself. There's alot of decadence over there. I mean, so they were on a mission and they were being godfathers in a way. And something I would I would not have done, I would never do. And I'm glad they didn't do it to me. But they did. They did. They did embrace us. They did it with the next crop of actors. They they embraced this very, you know, lovingly.

Interviewer: So you didn't just hang out and meet, you know, terrific girls.

James Earl Jones: I never met any girls with these guys. I mean.

Interviewer: What a waste of gorgeous guys.

James Earl Jones: Yes, I would say so.

Interviewer: What a waste. Did you ever study together? And I mean, were there ever any any.

James Earl Jones: The closest thing, the closest thing to study in relationship to Sidney was was those times he'd meet you privately? And it was easier to tell you something about where he was at or to find out where you were at. And one of those sessions, he said to me, don't rush to Hollywood because they will take you there for what you are, not for what you can become. Well, you know, in terms of training, he said New York would give you better training if you can , if you can afford to wait. Don't don't rush out there, but he would like counseling, you know, but not know about how to act is just about how and how to manage your career, how to know how to do your career thing, you know?

Interviewer: So he felt like a responsibility, like a mentor?

James Earl Jones: At worst, he was godfather, I guess not not just him, but the whole his whole his whole crop at best. It was really the best mentoring, the best wisdom of the next crop could get from, you know.

Interviewer: What a what a dear thing to do.

James Earl Jones: Yeah.

Interviewer: You've only worked together on two movies. He directed you in A Piece of theA ction in 1977. What was that like?

James Earl Jones: Like Sidney is straight and carries dignity with him. He brought that to the film, you might say, well, what Sidney Poitier doing in a movie that has little fun and has it was about black young people without giving them copouts. Like why why you're not successful. This movie says the reason you're not successful is because you haven't played yourself. You walk up and ask for a job and don't act like you can handle the job. You know, you don't carry any dignity with you. Simple dignity. You know, common courtesy was the theme. And this is this is what the story was about. And I think Sidney always made make sure that if his character didn't have dignity, that somehow the whole message of the story, if you can say message, did have a theme that he could be proud of and that that was one example. And and he and Bill had a lot of fun. I mean, they were they were they were hoodlums in the story, yet they were heroes. And. So how was it.

Interviewer: How did he do?

James Earl Jones: Very simple, I don't remember a whole lot. I remember one scene. It was crucial in that because I was I was so busy wearing my hat, my detective hat, that I didn't think of anything else other than my hat sitting. And there's something he wanted out of me in terms of how my character was finally joining with them rather than, you know, manipulating them. And I wasn't getting it, and I don't I don't remember what he wanted. I don't remember what got in my way, I it was a moment. I know when he was like like that. I knew that something had missed. I missed something. He wanted something. And I never asked him what it was, you know. Because he tried to keep it very simple. I mean, not not making it a whole head trip in terms of what I mean, you know.

Interviewer: Yeah. And and you acted together in Sneakers. Almost 20 years later.

James Earl Jones: I had the great fortune of acting with every star in Sneakers in one scene. I had them one at a time, you know, Sidney and Robert. I play, I play, this is, uh, CIA type guy, yeah.

Interviewer: The big gumba.

James Earl Jones: Yeah, yeah, yeah, the big the big gumba coming in the mail them all, you know, and they tell me, you know and we with some fun, too. I mean, when they came up with a request, they were playing characters who were like nerds, computer nerds. And then the mission, again theme. The mission was to eliminate all secrets. They thought the keeper of the secrets with most dangerous people to any society. So they out to mess up all the secrets, the secrets of void. And so they hired this one by. And this is the showdown scene, and when they come in with their requests, it's all requests they would have made at age 13. I want want to win a Chip. I want a Winnebago because they have been cloistered in their computer. It is a wonderful story.

Interviewer: Didn't it strike you at any time? Hey, you know, I saw this guy when I was at the University of Michigan and here it is, 1992. And here I am acting right alongside of him, right up there. I mean.

James Earl Jones: All of them. I mean, he and Redford both. Yeah, yeah. No, I wasn't impressed because he doesn't he doesn't make you press. He, he comes on the set like everybody else and you're not waiting for Sidney to arrive after everybody else is assembled. He's there. I saw him and I know it was a very tiring scene because when you got how many, six stars and a guest actor, you got a lot of takes. You got to do everything at least six times plus all the different whatever. And they were tired and Sidney did one day, he was standing against the wall and put his hands in his pockets, both legs, and sort of bent over, like, stretching his hamstring But not not so it's like you notice he stretches. He just bent over. And I saw the top of his head and he had not covered up his gray, you know. I said, yeah, that's. He's coming into. I mean, I really understand, you know, with not no pretenses, no no covers. And I kind of admired and love him differently from that moment, you know, and I never told him that.

Interviewer: I know exactly what you mean.

James Earl Jones: One problem I have in a formal interview about Sidney is that I really don't know him very well. Later in his life, I mean, after those days when he would counsel us and so on and we would hang out together, I've gotten to know him a little better recently because his wife and my wife get along and it's nice to go out, go out with them. But the early Sidney, I don't really know him that well because it was that that sort of and not not all that generation, but other crop, I call it, of people. And also I'll compare it with Ali. I love Ali like I love Sidney. And I don't know Ali at all. I know what he created, the persona he created, and I know the quiet persona he is now. And I think the quiet one is really closer to the real thing. So when I talk about people, I, I don't know what I'm talking about, the persona or the real thing. And with Sidney, I can't I can't separate him from what I've seen him do. And that's probably why we're all stuck with that. The Sidney we know is the one we we met on screen. And that's OK, I think, isn't it?

Interviewer: I think it's you know, I think it's extremely legitimate, particularly since, I mean, he could not help whether he liked it or not, being a role model. For I mean, all the young black actors, I mean, you were at the University of Michigan, another actor who spoke to me was like a 13 year old in Chicago when he went and he saw Sidney being a psychiatrist and said, you know, or, you know, whatever it was, I think that young black boys or men suddenly saw on the screen a possibility of something that they could be.

James Earl Jones: Yeah, that I can find no fault with Stepin Fetchit and Willie Besse, but their horizons were very, very limited. What they could be on film was zip, zero, nothing. And Sidneys showed everything. You could be everything, you know.

Interviewer: That's it. And for some reason, I mean, white people in a racist country in that period were as attracted to him as black people, very attracted.

Speaker Listen. Magnetism, great looks, beautiful looks. That's nothing new. People of different races have found others attractive ever since there have been different races. It just now they had to admit it. Why am I holding this ticket to see guess who's coming to dinner? Raisin in the Sun, why am I holding the tickets? I love this man. You know, I would love to love this man. I mean, this admission that his stardom just brought a lot of people out of the closet had big admirers of the beauty of black person, you know?

Interviewer: Now, at a certain point, and I think it was after, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.And it's interesting because that didn't happen with you and Great White Hope. But there were a lot of particularly black men who turned on Sidney then.

James Earl Jones: Well, you know, that was part of the way Hollywood, Hollywood, not the theater world of the film world in general. Hollywood sets people up just to knock them off. Somebody made a decision. It's time to give Sidney a little. But you know, and the hard another friend of mine, Cliff Mason, who was running for The New York Times to begin the attack?

Interviewer: What are you talking about?

James Earl Jones: I don't know what Cliff was really talking about either, but he began to attack Sidney for making choices like guess Who's Coming to Dinner? And you knew that you knew you knew it was a setup, he was a hit man. And that is something that I'm afraid Hollywood will do to all of them, those who we can become a certain side. What else do you do with them? Do they do they cast them in wax? I mean, what else do you do? Knock them off? Right. That is natural for Hollywood. It's as natural as Hollywood can be natural.

Interviewer: You think it came from a setup from Hollywood?

James Earl Jones: It didn't matter whether he crossed the line about race and about miscegenation or something else, you know, it's like Martin Luther King crossing the line with what, the Vietnam War. Who shouldn't but some little thing gave a signal to. You know, one of those.

Interviewer: So, in other words, it was an assassination?

James Earl Jones: An attempted one, but they didn't work and they chose a black man too far as I know, to lead it. But you say it didn't happen in my case.

Interviewer: In Great White Hope?

James Earl Jones: Or because of the miscegenation thing? Yeah, I just think simply saying, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner with about that? The Great White Hope was not about that. That was just one of the images in it, that's all. So we got away with it, you know, of Jane getting letters. But that was not people knew. That was not what they, you know, like Patty was not about the war against the fascists was about this great general was an outrageous human being. I think it's quite clear. When great movies are done, it's quite clear what they're about.

Interviewer: Do you think that he was treated fairly as an artist?

James Earl Jones: Probably of probably indulged early on because they wanted only one, I once I said I said this to him, I said it last time I saw him and in public. That Sidney, if Sidney didn't like a movie, it was assumed by the establishment that there was something wrong with this script. So they would kill it usually, and I was always hoping to use it, if it's a piece of crap that us guys were looking for work, have some crap, you know, we like to do some crap, you know, but Sidney was a filter for crap. And he would not fight. He would he would say it it is not right. Meant that it was not right. And then they indulged him as as as as the icon and way as the judge of they always went up. They meaning the white establishment, wants to authenticate their decisions by having if it's a Greek issue, they have a Greek, make the judgment on it. This is a blackissue, you had the black person make a judgment. Sidney was ideal for that. To establish a criteria, but beyond that, I don't think they did any favors. If that was a favor, you know, he was he was great box office, he is great box office is like he was still a great, great box office. That's what was said, the thriller with Sneakers.

Interviewer: What what do you think made him disappear from the screen in the 70s for 10 years?

James Earl Jones: Well, you know, I think I keep putting him in the same category and they don't belong, but I admire them the same way for being men who establish their own time to come back. You know, they develop their own stories, Redford and Poitier, they they're I don't know anybody else who does that. That independent. They can take time off, creative story, work on it, do the pre production, post-production, you know, and it takes that long to to get a project done. So it's not a matter of disappearing. They both do that. They go back to work. Out of the public eye. If you know something, if your question is about something else, I don't know. I was not aware of Sidney ever being absent from the screen.

Interviewer: Oh, yeah.

James Earl Jones: Were you aware of an absence?

Interviewer: Oh, yeah, I was.

James Earl Jones: Well, you love him so much that you want to see them. I'm a man. You're a woman. You know, I get to live.

Interviewer: I think I'm above that Jimmy.

James Earl Jones: You can't live without seeing him. But I didn't miss him.I didn't. I didn't I didn't know he was absent. I really didn't.

Interviewer: Sidney said to me, when when when I asked him to do this, he said, you know, I want you to think in terms of my being more than a black man. I mean, I know that we're going to be talking about civil rights and racism in the country and everything and like that. And I want to but I also want you to think in broader terms. I am not only a black man, I'm a man. With interests and and I'm a thinker and I'm an ambassador to Japan now and and so. I am I'm tired of always going over the same old question, which is, you know, why are you or why were you the black actor? You know what I'm saying, Jimmy? Are you following...

James Earl Jones: When he came back from Europe with a message about about decadence, that's what he meant. And that was that was not about being black. He was he was an American observing a society that we had held up as such, you know, esteem, and he said we should take another look. That's what that was about. Yes, he he wanted to be other than black. I think part of the devil's bargain is that the criteria that got you in, that's what you're stuck with. You know, the beautiful black face.

Interviewer: But say that more, I mean, elaborate on that more.

James Earl Jones: Well, that was not part of the bargain that you be valid on other issues besides being black, you know, Hollywood, at that time was not really used to that. Like they were not used to Jim Brown being anything other than an ex football player who beat up girls and threw them out the window. So I'm sure they conjure stories. I know the stories about violence, about hitting people was conjured about me, and it's not that there's somebody up at the top, you know, pulling these strings, but there is a puppetry going on. And especially in the PR world, if you want to get somebody in the spotlight, what's the quickest way to do it? A little something that's not quite true, but interesting. And all these little games that are played, you could you get caught in them sometimes, you know? But there are games. And. Sidney just wanted to be to represent more than that, yeah, then then the black thing.

Interviewer: The black issue.

James Earl Jones: The black issue. Diane once said to me, why should I know what I mean? When when they meaning the producers would come to her with now Diana, the scene where this black brother and sister. Is this valid? She'll say, well, how am I supposed to know I'm just a human being. I'm not an authority on who, what, how blacks behave? Well, they want to hear that. And so I think Sidney had the same attitude. You know, why am I an authority on just how blacks behave? How about how human beings behave? You know.

Interviewer: Exactly. Now, you are going. All right, now talking about human beings. You both are married to white women. Is this is this anything like, you know, Jews marrying shiksas?

James Earl Jones: It's simply nobody's business. Why? I might have the worst reasons for marrying that woman I'm married to, but it's still nobody's business. I happen to have a good reason for marrying her. It's because I love her, you know, but but I have a right to have the worst reason to it's nobody's business. That's all I can say about it, you know, and I don't know that I want to get defensive about it, but that's that's a waste of my energy. Once once you let other people determine your choice of a mate for life. Even even your parents will have a right to intrude on that choice. So it just it just takes away the concern about it. Why people are so concerned has a lot to do with a lot of bad habits, I think. Hollywood doesn't like the show that a lot. Not because it's not valid or interesting, but because it's a bad habit and they felt safer at one time long ago, far away, not to show it. There was a real concern that if you show black men showing spine hitting a white guy back, that that set off somebody, some kid in the ghetto to do that or marrying a white woman or going out with a white woman, that it'll set off some behavior that we're not ready to sanction yet. And they took the responsibility role for the whole nation as a whole standard of behavior. Well, those days are gone, but the habits have not gone.

Interviewer: Don't you think that's changed a lot in this, especially since the Spike Lee period? I mean, there's a very, very different sensibility on screen now, Jimmy.

James Earl Jones: But you see, the the the bad habits are not not just from the white establishment. The bad habits are also with black women who hate to see a star who is black, married to a wife who's white. That's a bad habit there. They're just now beginning to be indulged in. I mean, everybody wants to squeeze as much juice out of that racist thing, that racist pomegranate that they can and blacks are not above it.

Interviewer: I want you to talk about that, about that thing you're going to fist for that that sense of fighting the black racists, too.

James Earl Jones: Well, no, I'm I'm going to fist I hope to learn more about it. I have to I have to set firmly in my mind what white supremacy is first, because that leads to white racism. Then I'll understand what the aspirations of black supremacy, how that misleads us as well. And I have no comment to make about it yet. I just want to I want to learn about it.

Interviewer: OK, I don't have any other questions.

James Earl Jones: Thank you.

James Earl Jones
Interview Date:
1998-06-30
Runtime:
0:41:34
Keywords:
None
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
cpb-aacip-504-w08w951d4p, cpb-aacip-504-0k26970d1t
MLA CITATIONS:
"James Earl Jones, Sidney Poitier: One Bright Light." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 30 Jun. 1998, https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/868
APA CITATIONS:
(1998, June 30). James Earl Jones, Sidney Poitier: One Bright Light. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/868
CHICAGO CITATIONS:
"James Earl Jones, Sidney Poitier: One Bright Light." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). June 30, 1998. Accessed May 22, 2022 https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/868

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