‘American Fiction’ Interview: Cord Jefferson On His Provocative Literary Satire And Awards Season Favorite

Cord Jefferson knew as soon as he read Percival Everett’s provocative 2001 novel Erasure that he wanted to turn it into a movie. And so, writing completely on spec, he adapted the book into one of the most critically acclaimed films of the festival season, American Fiction, which had its world premiere in TIFF and recently was a spotlight screening at the Middleburg Film Festival where it won the People’s Choice Award.

The film stars Jeffrey Wright as frustrated author and English professor Thelonius “Monk” Ellison, who is sick and tired of how Black culture is reduced to stereotypes to entertain Caucasians in the literary world, although you could just as easily add Hollywood into the mix, also. To combat this, Monk creates a fictional persona and writes a book filled with all of the urban tropes that have made others into bestselling authors. And much to his chagrin, the book becomes a hit.

I had a chance to talk with Cord Jefferson about American Fiction, his Middleburg experience, the challenge of adapting Erasure and the risk he took in changing some aspects of Everett’s novel. Of course, we also chatted about the casting of Jeffrey Wright, who is pitch-perfect and commanding as Monk, as well as the rest of the incredible cast.

American Fiction opens in select theaters on December 15th before expanding a week later.

Travis Hopson
Travis Hopson has been reviewing movies before he even knew there was such a thing. Having grown up on a combination of bad '80s movies, pro wrestling, comic books, and hip-hop, Travis is uniquely positioned to geek out on just about everything under the sun. A vampire who walks during the day and refuses to sleep, Travis is the co-creator and lead writer for Punch Drunk Critics. He is also a contributor to Good Morning Washington, WBAL Morning News, and WETA Around Town. In the five minutes a day he's not working, Travis is also a voice actor, podcaster, and Twitch gamer. Travis is a voting member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), and Late Night programmer for the Lakefront Film Festival.