Erik LaRay Harvey recently spoke to EBONY about his role in Bolden, a Dan Pritzker-directed musical drama that tells the story of the cornetist and bandleader Buddy Bolden, who historians believe invented jazz.
“Dan just called and asked if I would be interested in the role,” the actor said. “[He] sent me the script, it was a huge script, and I think I got halfway through it and was like, ‘Oh, yes!’”
Harvey, most recently known for his role on Netflix’s Luke Cage, loved that the film is adding to Black history by sharing the history of the lesser-known seminal jazz figure.
“Any African-American story is important, especially the history, and this is the founder of jazz and who knew?” he said. “They always think it’s one person and it goes deeper than that. I think that’s just the history of our lives and the stories of our lives in this country just goes much deeper than we think.”
Little biographical information exists about Bolden, and there are no recordings of his innovative musical style because he was committed to an asylum in 1907 due to mental Illness and a mix of bad alcohol. He died there more than 20 years later. The legend of his daring music was passed down by his contemporaries, including Louis Armstrong, who is portrayed in the film by Reno Wilson.
“They say a breakdown at the end, but it’s more bad alcohol affected the brain, as far as I saw it personally,” Harvey said about the film touching on the stigma of mental illness.
He added, “But I think it’s a really important story to tell and it happened, and these characters were there, and I was just glad to be a part of it.”
The 47-year-old doesn’t believe that the lack of knowledge about Bolden negatively impacted the current coverage of jazz.
“It happened the way it was supposed to happen but I’m glad that Dan sort of revived and got to the truth of jazz and our history,” Harvey said. “The fact that he was able to delve into an African-American story and bring to light will hopefully shed some light on the future generation and how they think of music.”
Most important, the actor wants viewers to know “that Bolden did exist and that his life was favorable, important and changed the world.”
Bolden opens in theaters on May 3. You can get your tickets at boldenmovietickets.com.
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Christina Santi is a news and culture writer for EBONY.com. Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, she considers herself a well-read, not so traditional feminist with a heavy interest in music, fashion and pop culture. Christina currently lives in New York City, where she refers to her Cuban & Jamaican descent often while writing about her experiences as a first-generation Afro-Latinx in America. She also devotes time writing personalized reading material for her tutees and turning ideas into words for streetwear brand, PUER By Noel Bronson.