that slavery has had on African Americans? Does it encourage the mindset that, if Barack Obama can be president, then Black people as a whole are okay. If Django can whip some overseers, then everything is fine?
LB: As far as Django is concerned, you have to consider what it is. Django is a piece of entertainment. It’s a fantasy. In fact, there’s a specific genre of literature called revenge fantasy. Django is not history. Django is not Roots. Let’s not get it twisted. Roots is the story of a history of a country. It’s a lot different.
EBONY: I don’t know if you’ve heard this or not, but Quentin Tarantino actually did an interview with EBONY where he basically said Roots was unrealistic --
LB: You know what? I’ll go to toe-to-toe with Mr. Quentin Tarantino on that any day. I’ll go toe-to-toe with him. You know, I respect him as a filmmaker. He’s given a lot of Black people jobs over the years in his movies, I’ll go toe-to-toe with you on that, Mr. Tarantino. You come and tell me that Roots is unrealistic, Mr. Tarantino, and I’d love to have that conversation. I invite Tarantino to a sit-down because I’d like to understand what he means by that. That’s very interesting. They can sell tickets to that! [laughs]
EBONY: Is it a goal of yours to get your daughter to watch Roots?
LB: No. She’ll watch it when it’s time for her. It will always be there for her, and I can take that to the bank. I could stop today, if I wanted to. If that was the only truth I wanted to focus on for the rest of my life, that Roots would be there, that I have done something of value, I could stop today. But, for me, Roots set a standard and showed me an opportunity to teach people [through art] and I took that idea very much to heart. And we have created a society right now, there is a sense of violence to this country. That’s why I say, Mr. Tarantino you’re a lovely filmmaker, but what are your movies about? They are, as I say, adolescent fantasy and, it’s a sort of fetish for people of color. I’ll go ahead and say it: it’s a fetish for Black people.
EBONY: You were saying in the PBS episode that it took you a week for you to be able to film that famous scene where Kunta Kinte is being whipped until he says his name is Toby. What was your process like during that week for you to be able to get through that scene? What were you going through that week?
LB: Ultimately, I could not get used to the idea of just standing there and letting someone hurl a whip at me. It was just psychologically difficult. So, it took bringing the guy back and me getting to know him [the actor who played the overseer]. It was a trust issue. It was an issue of me getting to know [the actor who played the overseer] and I just didn’t trust anybody. [laughs] I had to learn to trust that guy.
EBONY: So what was that conversation like with the actor who played the overseer in order for you to feel comfortable?
LB: You know, I don’t remember the conversation but I do remember the feeling. I remember feeling incredibly well. There’s something very basic and elementary about danger, when you put yourself in danger. I’ve done it several times in different forms: skydiving, walking on hot coals. I understand the bit of the psychological dynamic of danger. And so what I recall is there was a lot of unspoken communication going on and it was really a process of me watching who he was and spending time with him and getting a sense of who he was and knowing he had a really good heart. He had no malice in him. I had to learn these things about him before I could stand up there and turn my back on him without reacting before the lash landed. That was the problem the first time we had attempted to film the scene, I was much too jumpy.
EBONY: That’s so interesting, then, that the network decided to have you and the actor who played the overseer come on Good Morning America the morning after that episode of Roots aired just to show everyone that there was no malice between the two of you in real life to stave off any racial unrest the viewers back in 1977 might have had.
LB: Oh yeah, it was really that deep. Talk to someone who was alive back then. Talk to someone who was in high school when Roots first came on. [Laughs]
EBONY: Why do you think Roots still resonates so deeply