Arts & Entertainment

Role of a lifetime: A chat with Jeffrey Wright, award-winning actor

March 6, 2024

Role of a lifetime: A chat with Jeffrey Wright, award-winning actor

Jeffrey Wright

Award-winning Actor

Willy Walker chats with Jeffreyrey Wright, the critically acclaimed actor and Academy Award nominee, to discuss his journey as an actor.

I recently enjoyed chatting with Jeffrey Wright, a critically acclaimed actor. Jeffrey has won a Tony, Emmy, AFI, Golden Globe, 2024 Indie Spirit Award, and was nominated for an Academy Award this year for his performance in American Fiction. Jeffrey has appeared in many films and TV shows, such as Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, No Time to Die, Westworld, The Batman, and now, American Fiction. During this special episode of the Walker Webcast, I had the chance to dive deep into the world of film with one of the greatest actors of our time.

How Jeffrey’s acting career started

Jeffrey has a bit of an unconventional story of how he became an actor. Before beginning his acting career, Jeffrey was an incredible lacrosse player at St. Albans. This is where his high school friends say that his acting career began—by impersonating his lacrosse coaches when they weren’t looking. After graduating high school, Jeffrey went on to receive his bachelor’s degree in political science from Amherst College, followed by a short two-month stint at NYU’s Tisch School for the Arts until he left to start his acting career in Les Blancs.

The parallels between Jeffrey’s real life and American Fiction

In American Fiction, Jeffrey plays a character, Monk, who is put into a situation where he has to care for his mother, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's while portraying himself in a completely different way to the outside world. This situation wasn’t far from the real-life situation in which Jeffrey found himself when his own mother was diagnosed with colon cancer just a couple of years ago. Similarly, behind the scenes, Jeffrey had to step up and care for his mother in her final months of life while balancing his career obligations.

Acting advice from Sidney Poitier

Jeffrey reminisced about his first time playing a role in a movie with Sidney Poitier, whom he describes as being the most gracious, generous, naturally elegant man. When he asked Poitier for his advice on acting, the answer was just one word: irony. Jeffrey knew exactly what the great actor meant. Rather than coming straight at a role, Jeffrey knew Poitier meant that acting is largely about interpreting the word on the page, not just reading it. It’s the actor's job to fill it with tone and life that makes it compelling and life-like. It’s a well-learned lesson as Jeffrey continues to bring life into all his roles.

What’s next for Jeffrey Wright?

Before his work in American Fiction, Jeffrey was a decorated actor, but being nominated for an Oscar propels every actor to another level. An Oscar nomination opens doors for actors and gives them opportunities that they might not have received otherwise.

Naturally, I had to ask Jeffrey what was next for him. Although Jeffrey loves acting, he has a few projects in mind that he wants to get behind the camera on and direct. He believes that, as a director, he will be able to pass on some of the knowledge that he’s gained through decades of acting to the next generation of actors while continuing to play a role in developing future award-winning shows and movies.

Want more?

Check out the Walker Webcast each week for lively discussions with distinguished guests from a variety of industries.

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