On Friday, Marshall hits theaters giving audiences a glimpse into the work of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall years before he was sworn into the highest federal court in the land. Playing the iconic figure is Chadwick Boseman, but the film also features Rozonda ‘Chilli’ Thomas of TLC as Zora Neale Hurston and Jussie Smollett as Langston Hughes.
Smollett recently spoke to the hosts of ESSENCE’s Yes, Girl about his small cameo and revealed there’s more to come from the role.
“It wasn’t known that Thurgood Marshall and Langston Hughes were friends,” he told the ESSENCE podcast (begins at 47:00 mark). “But they were. And one point, roommates. They were like brothers.”
“Everything put aside, I love that in the 1920s, 30s, 40s there was a heterosexual black men who one of his best friends was a homosexual black man. And it was what it was.”
Smollett went on to tell the story of how he got the role from director Reginald Hudlin (House Party, Boomerang, Django Unchained).
“I was doing a tribute to John Legend at the NAACP Image Awards —not this past one but the year before— and Reginald came up to me and said, ‘You favor Langston Hughes so much. I just want to know if you’d be down to do a cameo in Marshall as Langston Hughes?'”
To which the Empire star replied, “I’ll do it on one condition —that within three years, we do the full Langston Hughes movie.” And Hudlin said, “Done.”
Marshall and Hughes met as undergraduate students at Lincoln University and remained close through the years. As one of acclaimed writers of the Harlem Renaissance, Hughes is cited as one of the most forward thinkers of the era —in addition to his contemporaries Hurston, Countee Cullen, Claude McKay and many more.