Jeffrey Wright Talks ‘American Fiction’, Grappling With Stereotypes In The Entertainment Industry, & More

Ever since his breakout role in 1996’s Basquiat, Jeffrey Wright has been considered one of our best actors. However, that’s come as something of a double-edged sword. He’s so reliable, that Wright often finds himself in key supporting roles rather than as the lead. That could be about to change. There’s real Best Actor Oscar buzz swirling for Wright’s performance in American Fiction, and the acclaim is long overdue.

In American Fiction, Jeffrey Wright plays Thelonius “Monk” Ellison, a frustrated author and literary scholar. He’s got a complicated relationship with his family, a nonexistent love life, and anger over the portrayal of Black stereotypes in books written by more successful Black authors. To put a fine point on it, Monk adopts a pseudonym and writes his own book filled with Black inner-city cliches, only to be shocked when it becomes a bestseller and he must keep the con going for a multitude of reasons.

I was fortunate to spend a few minutes talking with Jeffrey Wright about American Fiction, his thoughts on the criticisms in the film, any agreement he might share with Monk, and how the entertainment industry as a whole could learn a thing or two about telling Black stories.

American Fiction expands to more theaters on December 22nd, before going nationwide in January. Check out the interview below. You can also find my interview with director Cord Jefferson here, and my review here.

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.