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Ruben Santiago-Hudson Challenges Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry To Harlem Renaissance Screen Collaboration

by Tambay A. Obenson
January 7, 2014 12:03 PM
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Ruben Santiago Hudson

Thanks to Jana for alerting me to this November 2013 interview with Ruben Santiago-Hudson.

In it, Santiago-Hudson expresses his strong desire to see a TV mini-series production that comprehensively tells the many stories of the Harlem Renaissance. In his words, he'd need about 10 hours total (5 parts, 2 hours each), not a 2-hour movie, for the project, and he essentially challenges the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, Denzel Washington, and other black Hollywood elites, to "come together" and make the Harlem Renaissance story a priority project, which, of course, he'd like to be involved in. 

He says he's been trying to get it done for a decade, with no luck apparently, suggesting that it would require a combined effort, including those like the above, with the resources, and the connections, to make the project a reality.

When asked by the interviewers why it hasn't already happened, Santiago-Hudson lists a couple of reasons, including what he feels is a crabs in a barrel mentality, as well as an unhealthy individualism, and lack of community. 

Worth noting in all this is that, a couple of months before this interview with Santiago-Hudson was posted to YouTube (from Arise Entertainment), one of the people he called out, Oprah Winfrey, revealed in a New York Daily News profile of ahead of Lee Daniels The Butler's release, that she had spoken with producer-director George C. Wolfe about a possible miniseries on the Harlem Renaissance.

I'm not certain whether Santiago-Hudson was aware of this when he gave the below interview to Arise Entertainment, but no further details were available at the time to share - like how deep the conversations between Oprah and Wolfe went, and whether much came out of them. I'd assume it's something she wants to act in.

So now word on whether, since last fall, any movement on any Harlem Renaissance project (whether from Santiago-Hudson, Oprah, Wolfe, or all of them collectively) has happened. I'd assume that now it's all out in the open (interest from 3 different parties), it may only be a matter of time before something comes together, and, eventually, there's a formal announcement of a project. 

The Harlem Renaissance covers so much, with a wealth of material to look to for inspiration. This mini-series could attempt to paint a portrait of the period, with multiple stories that intertwine (or not); or it could zoom in on the life of a single person, through whose story we experience the spirit of the times.

And George C. Wolfe is a director I'd bet on for something like this. And if Ruben Santiago-Hudson is one of its stars, that would be great too! Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry can produce.

Let's see if anything comes of all this.

Watch the full interview with Santiago-Hudson below; the part during which he talks about a Harlem Renaissance project, and telling our own stories, starts around the 10-minute mark:

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  • Ava | January 7, 2014 6:34 PMReply

    Intriguing. I guess he's talking about a fictionalized account, rather than a documentary.

  • Elle | January 7, 2014 1:41 PMReply

    Great interview with Ruben. Love his work. Met him in this past summer at The Green Space, NYC, during the celebration of August Wilson's plays. I attended 3 of the programs also attend "How I learned What I Learned" at the Signature Theatre twice. What an amazing performance. I appreciate his LOVE of heritage and BLACK CULTURE. I would love to see his dream of the Harlem Renaissance come to fruition.

    I've been saying the same thing for years, Hollywood Blacks need to invest in telling our history. It's so sad, to go to a black production and not see anyone of your culture. Case and point, a few years back, I treated my husband to 2 plays and dinner. We went to see "MONK" a play about famous jazz pianist, Theloneous Monk. This play was off Broadway, with only public radio promotions. We arrived at the theatre, to discover their was only 4 people in the entire theatre, I could not believe it, needless to say, the other two patrons were white. Regardless actor Rome Neal's performance was stellar, as if performing for a full house. We were able to meet with him after the play and converse about the play and absence of the community. OK, so getting back to date night, after Monk dinner and then "Julius Caesar" w/ Denzel Washington. Of course, to a sold out theatre. Hopefully, things will change and Ruben will be able to get the collaboration needed to pursue telling the story of Harlem.

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