Sit down, Lemon Andersen ‘got a story to tell. He grew up in Brooklyn by the ten crack commandments. After both parents succumbing to Aids through their addictions, he took the improbable journey from Rikers to reading his first poem at El Puente Community Center to Broadway earning himself a Tony Award. Or as Lemon simply puts it, he took those lemons and made “the best goddamn lemonade!” He is now the subject of a documentary called ‘Lemon’ by Laura Brownson & Beth Levison which chronicles the journey of his one man play ‘County of Kings; the Beautiful Struggle’ which recently closed the HBO New York International Latino Film Festival and will air on PBS on October 19th as part of VOCES, a four part Latino documentary series in celebration of Hispanic Heritage month.
LatinoBuzz: When you think of riding the train, standing room only on a winter day, hoodie and goose down North Face on in Brooklyn—what song pops into your head? Lemon:“It’s all about the mood I’m in and the scene I’m writing. ‘Cause work controls my life, writing controls my life, performing controls my life. So I don’t listen to any music that’s not an influence on what I’m working on that day. Music is a big influence in my work and sometimes drives the energy of where I want to go. It depends on what character I’m working on because all of my characters are musically driven as far as their language and their style. So it really depends on the day and what character I’m working on. One day I may be listening to Wu-Tang and another day I’m listening to A$AP Rocky, matter of fact I was listening to him on the train yesterday. Right now listening to A$AP Rocky cause I’m writing about some pretty motherfuckers from Harlem”.
LatinoBuzz: Author from any time in history, from any place whose swag should have had them born in the County of Kings in 1975? Lemon:“I would definitely have to say William Shakespeare, he should have been born in Brooklyn in 1975 because I would have loved to see Shakespeare’s poetic portrayal of that generation and that world. He’s a big inspiration on my writing about that world and on my style. Shakespeare all day man, that’s the OG. I mean, I would pick Sophocles or any one of those guys, but Shakespeare is my kind of writer cause its all poetry. Basically for me Shakespeare is the greatest storyteller ever in the world, ever, period, hands down there is no one better than him and I challenge any motherfucker to question it. Even if they say he wasn’t the one who wrote it, I’m talking about the work not the man; I don’t know that fool, I know his work”.
LatinoBuzz: If St. Cecilia, patron saint of poets, was from Flatbush Ave. What would she be wearing and how would you holler at her? Lemon:“I live by the code kill them with kindness, blood everywhere, for me it’s always about being the nicest kind of guy. What she would be wearing is something that is independent to her personality. On some hip-hop tip but no brand names totally indie hip designers. Something that really reflects her personality. That’s how I would start the conversation, I would notice something that she’s wearing and comment on it, something like I know the brand or “I’ve seen that in Paris,” and that will strike a chord with her and we’ll talk”.
LatinoBuzz: Three time felon, Tony award winner, one man show and now subject of a documentary film—any regrets to your journey? Lemon:“I don’t know, I think that if I had any regrets that would cancel out the great people that I have in my life. All the tough stuff that I’ve gone through that I don’t wish on no one else has brought a beautiful community to me. The only thing I regret is the pain that I had to endure because pain sucks, the feeling of pain sucks, I don’t give a fuck when people say “more pain, more gain” no one wants to feel pain”.
LatinoBuzz: What do you tell your children about your parents? Lemon:“You know, I talk to my kids about my mother’s energy and how she would have loved them. I talk about how kind and polite my father was. So that they have some kind of remembrance that even though my parents died from their addictions and so that they know they were genuine in how they were. That’s what I try to do. I try not to give too many details, though they are not old enough to ask me for details yet”.
LatinoBuzz: What would you rather? Drink wine with Pablo Neruda. Play ‘Cee-lo’ with Langston Hughes, Slap Box with Charles Bukowski or Slow Dance with Sonia Sanchez? Lemon:“Would be slap boxing with Charles Bukowski cause he tried to protect Langston Hughes cause he owes me on the dice game and Sonia Sanchez is sitting there laughing her ass off with Pablo Neruda sipping wine. I would slap box with Bukowski and I’ll know that he’ll try to go for his. Bukowski stands out for more than anyone, although I love Langston Hughes and I love Sonia, and Pablo Neruda is the most beautiful loving poet of them all. I’m too rambunctious and so Charles Bukowski fits the bill. I would turn those guys down any day to even just have coconut water with Bukowski. So that’s my dude, he rolls big with me, in my work, so yeah I’d slap box with him all day, right on the corner”.
LatinoBuzz: What ritual sends you to your creative realm? Lemon:“Lately its been getting up in the morning and allowing my kind of madness to grow. By that I mean that I have to allow myself to wake up before I start writing. I wake up I talk to one of my closest friends. I talk to my management team and I get their energy boiling. I get the blood boiling. I get angry, I get hungry, and I go at it, and I don’t stop ‘til I go to bed at night. So I have to get the blood boiling is just not coffee. It has to be that I’m in conversation with people in the morning before the work start because people drive me. Through out the day I listen to music I go to local cafes I hang out with the Mexicans behind the bar let them know that I love and that I’m holding them down, real talk, and that’s my every day”.
LatinoBuzz: If you and Biggie played Hooky—what’s the day like? Lemon: “Wow, if me and Biggie played hooky I think we’d be sitting at home, that’s the only time I would go back to smoking weed, because I know I’ll be smoking with Biggie. I don’t smoke weed but for Biggie and Bob Marley. I would smoke with him and we would be watching Midnight Express and Brubaker and I would be telling him, “you see these movies that’s why I’m writing ‘Toast’, that’s why I write scripts and not raps.”
LatinoBuzz: Line of poetry or a lyric you wish you wrote? Lemon:“I never sleep cause sleep is the cousin of death.”—NAS, “NY State of Mind”
LatinoBuzz: What will people say about Lemon when it’s all said and done? Lemon:“That he believed in a generation not based on race but on class and style, and they had a great story tell and he told it”.
Written by Juan Caceres and Vanessa Erazo, LatinoBuzz is a weekly feature onSydneysBuzz that highlights emerging and established Latino indie talent and upcoming trends in Latino film with the specific objective of presenting a broad range of Latino voices. Follow@LatinoBuzz on twitter.