The holidays will be extra special this year when Denzel Washington and Viola Davis gift viewers their award-winning performances in August Wilson’s Fences.
Before the film arrives in theaters Christmas Day, the Hollywood heavyweights share the spotlight on ESSENCE’s December cover. The stars speak on honoring the legacy of August Wilson, dissecting the colossal effect of deferred dreams, and showcasing the breadth and beauty of the African American experience on film.
Bringing the brilliance of August Wilson beyond Broadway has always been a dream for Denzel Washington, who pulls double duty as director and star of Fences. The story centers on the midlife crisis of Troy Maxson (played by Washington) and how his “unrealized pain” produces a ripple effect throughout his broken family, especially on his wife Rose (Viola Davis).
The big screen adaptation is a reunion for the actors, who both won Tony Awards for their 2010 performances on Broadway. Washington considers Wilson a master storyteller and he’s committed to bringing Wilson’s ten-play series, affectionately known as the Century Cycle, beyond the stage.
But he wants to clear up one Hollywood rumor: “I’m not directing or acting in all the rest of them…that I know of!” The two-time Oscar winner’s focus now is on Fences. He says, “What’s most important to me is that I take care of his words and his will for this play.”
Leading lady Viola Davis should be making room next to her Emmy for an Oscar. Critics already see an Academy Award in Davis’s future for playing long suffering wife Rose. Still, there were challenges coming back to such familiar material.
Says Davis, “It’s not always that a director can say one thing that unlocks a scene when you’re blocked, especially with a scene that you’ve done so many times, but Denzel did that time and time again. He has a huge honesty gauge, so when he asked me to trust him, I did.”
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That trust is felt from the other costars in Fences, including actor Russell Hornsby, who plays Tory’s firstborn son Lyon, and Jovan Adepo, who stars as teen Cory.
“First and foremost, Denzel came to the moment with love,” says Hornsby. “Those were some of the first words out of his mouth: ‘We love these people.’” Says Adepo on filming with Davis, “Watching her work to find the truth within a scene was so humbling for me. She’s just awesome.”
Love was felt all around the day of Davis and Washington’s cover shoot as well.
The pair, who first worked together in 2002 on Washington’s directorial debut Antwone Fisher, connected like old friends in front of the ESSENCE camera. At Washington’s request, jazz was the preferred on set sound and the duo fell right in step on the Paramount Pictures backlot in Hollywood. Hopefully they will be in hand in hand as newly minted Oscar winners soon.
For more on Fences, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, pick up a copy of our December issue, on newsstands November 11.