Tyler Perry wrote his latest film A Jazzman’s Blues at the beginning of his career, some twenty odd years ago, but only felt confident in making it come to life now. “I had to secure my footing first. I had to make sure that everything I did was working, and was going to number one,” he told EBONY, during a red carpet screening in Atlanta. “Doing a period piece, I didn't know how that would work for me. But now that I've done it, it’s pretty amazing.”
Set in the 1940s and 1980s, A Jazzman’s Blues follows the love story of Bayou and LeAnne who were kept apart by colorism and racism in the Jim Crow South. Joshua Boone, who plays Bayou, recently shared the Broadway stage with Phylicia Rashad and Chanté Adams in Dominique Morisseau’s Tony-nominated play Skeleton Crew. Solea Pfeiffer, his LeAnne, is best known for playing Eliza Hamilton in the national tour for the Broadway hit and multiple Tony award-winning play Hamilton.
In the early years when the film mogul envisioned playing Bayou himself, he shared that he also wanted Diana Ross to play his mother. Today the role of Hattie Mae, the woman of many talents who washes laundry, births babies, heals the sick and sings folks to a good time, is ably handled by theatre veteran Amirah Vann, now starring as Parker Campbell on OWN's Queen Sugar.
“If you've seen her do anything from Underground to How To Get Away with Murder, she's incredible,” he shared. “She is Hattie Mae.”
It’s a role that she embraced. “This woman is so inspiring because she's a mother but she's also a business owner,” Vann explained. “By the end of the film she's pursuing her dreams as she opens her juke joint, and this is all during segregation.”
As she might on the Broadway stage, Vann also sings in A Jazzman’s Blues. Singing she shared is something she loves especially for projects featuring us. “There's something about expression through song,” she explained. “I just love it naturally, but then for our history, we used songs to say how can we go north, to tell each other things on the downlow, how to escape for freedom and how to survive. So, for me, I just feel like it's such a natural way for us to communicate as people.”
Working with Perry, was effortless for Vann. I love working with him," she gushed. "He's very specific about what he wants, but he leaves room to be super down to earth. So, when you have that balance of having a clear vision [but yet allows artists] to discover and play, that's an artist's gift.”
Hattie Mae, Vann pointed out, is among the many roles she’s enjoyed throughout her career. “I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to play women that on the page just jumped out and made me feel stronger, more powerful, more capable,” she shared. “And I just hope the same feeling I got when I read this inspires another woman watching it.”