Starring in Broadway's The Piano Lesson as Doaker Charles, Samuel L. Jackson spoke with Stephen Colbert on the host's The Late Show September 27 to talk about watching co-star John David Washington grow, worrying about missing a line, and falling asleep on film sets.
Jackson starred in the world premiere of The Piano Lesson at Yale Repertory Theatre when he was 39 years old as Boy Willie. Colbert asked Jackson about seeing John David Washington take on the role, and if he's spoken with Washington about the character. "First thing was, I was instructed to never talk to John David about Boy Willie, so I have never had a conversation with him about that character. ... I did Boy Willie a specific way because I was directed to do it that way. He is being directed to do Boy Willie a different way, and to sit there and watch it is kind of breathtaking at times because I say 'I never thought to do that.'"
Jackson and Washington are joined in leading the cast by Danielle Brooks as Berniece under the direction of Tony nominee LaTanya Richardson Jackson. The first Broadway revival of the August Wilson work began its 17-week engagement September 19 and will open October 13 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre.
Set in Pittsburgh's Hill District in 1936, The Piano Lesson follows a brother and sister who are embroiled in a battle over a family heirloom piano carved with the faces of their ancestors. It is the fourth play in Wilson's Century Cycle, which explores the Black experience in every decade of the 20th century; other works in the cycle include Fences, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, and Jitney, among others.
The cast is rounded out by Trai Byers as Avery, Ray Fisher as Lymon, April Matthis as Grace, Michael Potts as Wining Boy, and Nadia Daniel and Jurnee Swan alternating in the role of Maretha. Understudies are Shirine Babb, Charles Browning, Peter Jay Fernandez, Sharina Martin, Warner Miller, Doron JePaul Mitchell, and Kim Sullivan.
In 1990, the play was staged at Chicago's Goodman Theatre, and subsequently transferred to Broadway's Walter Kerr Theatre. The Pulitzer Prize-winning drama received Tony nominations for Best Play, Best Direction of a Play, Best Featured Actor in a Play, Best Actor in a Play, and Best Featured Actress in a Play.
The creative team also includes Tony-winning music director Jason Michael Webb, who composed new music for the revival, Tony-winning set designer Beowulf Boritt, Tony-nominated costume designer Toni-Leslie James, Tony-nominated lighting designer Japhy Weideman, Tony-winning sound designer Scott Lehrer, Drama Desk-nominated designer Cookie Jordan, Tony-winning projection designer Jeff Snug, and choreographer Otis Sallid. Casting is by Calleri, Jensen, Davis, and general management is by Foresight Theatrical.