Day one of the 21st annual American Black Film Festival opened with a lush luncheon hosted by ABFF and Cadillac. In a billowy tent at The Raleigh Hotel, ABFF founder Jeff Friday, Festival Ambassador Regina Hall and legendary filmmaker Spike Lee helped kick things off. Among the stunning ambiance of gold, black and red, with purple lighting that would make Prince proud, EBONY.com was there to witness the Art of Daring conversation that Lee had with Creative Director/Music Industry Graphic Designer Kenny Gravillis. The gorgeous event culminated with a sensational performance by LeToya Luckett.
In the midst of the all the fun festivities, we had the opportunity to chat with Lee one on one, about why the best filmmakers are Black and why we should all be thrilled about his new Netflix series, She’s Gotta Have It.
Spike Lee: Can I break this down to you? All of the best filmmakers are Black! [Laughing]
EBONY: I concur!
SL: Thank you!
EBONY: You’re doing She’s Gotta Have It as a series with Netflix, which we’re so excited about. I wanted to know why it was important for you to update this story for 2017?
SL: First, my lovely wife, Tonya Lewis Lee, it was her idea.
EBONY: Oh, wonderful!
SL: I didn’t even think about it!
EBONY: Oh, really, it never crossed your mind?
SL: Andre 3000, “Never never never.”
EBONY: Dating has changed so much since the 1980s when the film was made.
SL: Oh yeah! There was no swiping and all of that stuff. We shot the movie in 1985. But Nola Darling doesn’t do that; she’s not doing that. But she still has three men at the same time. She juggles them.
EBONY: Let’s talk about DeWanda Wise who plays Nola Darling in the series.
SL: DeWanda is the bomb!
EBONY: How did you find her?
SL: My casting director Kim Coleman. Then I’m a film professor at NYU, and one of my students made a film …
EBONY: How To Tell You’re a Douchebag by Tahir Jetter.
SL: Yeah! So that’s where I first saw her, and she’s amazing. There are 10 episodes, so you all have to get her on a cover!
EBONY: So what has the experience been like working with Netflix versus working with a major studio? I heard there is a bit more freedom over there.
SL: There is a lot more freedom. There are two sistas who work there who are the executives on She’s Gotta Have It. Tara Ducan and Elaine Estridge. Two Sundances ago, I had lunch with Tara and my wife, and I pitched [She’s Gotta Have It] to her, and she said, “Let’s do this.” So, here we are. And we’re very excited, and we’re going to have Black Twitter aflame. [Laughing]
EBONY: [Laughing] That’s how you get people talking about you.
SL: Here’s the thing: You’re too young to remember this, but when She’s Gotta Have It came out, there were people who said, “This is a stereotypical image of an oversexualized Black woman.” Then, you had people saying that Nola Darling was a feminist. So I think we’ll have the same types of reaction about who Nola Darling is and it will reflect the fact that there is not just one aspect of who a Black woman is.
EBONY: We’re very excited! Thank you so much for speaking with us.
Spike Lee’s Netflix series She’s Gotta Have It will debut this fall.