Listen: CulturePop No. 31 – Kasi Lemmons, ‘Black Nativity’

Well, we finally found a guest whose work so moved Melinda that she started tearing up in the interview. If you haven’t seen Kasi Lemmons’ “Eve’s Bayou,” it’s one of Melinda’s favorite movies of all time. We discussed the 1997 film, but also Lemmons’ new movie, “Black Nativity,” which is based on Langston Hughes’ musical of the same name.

We had a great time talking to Kasi, who walked us through her creative process, the challenges of bringing together a “dream cast,” and why it’s been so great to work with major talents including Forest Whitaker, Jennifer Hudson, Angela Bassett, Don Cheadle and Chiwetel Ejiofor in her directing career. If you weren’t familiar with Kasi’s work beyond “Silence of the Lambs” (she started her career as an actress) before this podcast, we suspect you’ll be renting some movies (she also directed “Talk to Me” and “The Caveman’s Valentine”) and checking out “Black Nativity” after you listen. Here’s the rundown: 

:30 The decision to adapt Langston Hughes

1:30 The Harlem Renaissance and Hughes’ importance to her growing up

3:00 Her spin on ‘Black Nativity’

5:50 casting Jennifer Hudson in the role she wrote for her

6:35 What difference it makes being an actor-director

8:00 Forest Whitaker

9:13 What it means to her to direct brilliant actors and “geeking out” 

12:02 Musicals

12:20 Working with Raphael Saadiq

14:55 Easier to get a name brand quantity on screens

18:25 Waiting for Forest and keeping the dream cast intact

19:50 Samuel L. Jackson and Don Cheadle

21:00 Losing Terence Howard for “Talk to Me”

22:50 Making a movie about a real person

25:25 Melinda finally gets to talk about “Eve’s Bayou”! If you’re a fan of this movie (or just interested in the creative process of getting an indie made), listen to this.

Thanks for listening!