- “To Be Actually Honest”:An Interview with Reginald Hudlin, Writer, Producer, Director, and Executive
Academy Award nominee Reginald Hudlin is an innovator and has spent most of his career in cinema and television, although his work cuts across several media (television, film, comic books, animation, documentary, music videos, and live entertainment production), evidencing success after success, both market and critical. He somehow always seems to find himself in the right place at the right time with the necessary creativity and resources to fill a gap. Along with his brother, Warrington Hudlin, “The Hudlin Brothers” were a central force in the independent black cinema movement in the 1980s and 1990s. They made it their business to tell stories that featured African Americans that were wildly successful, beginning with the hip-hop classic House Party (1990), that launched a three-feature franchise starring Kid ‘N’ Play (Christopher “Kid” Reid and Christopher “Play” Martin), Martin Lawrence, and Robin Harris, receiving the Sundance Film Festival Filmmakers Trophy (Reginald Hudlin), Best Cinematography (Peter Deming), and nomination for the Grand Jury Prize (Reginald Hudlin), and then next with the romantic comedy Boomerang (1992) featuring Eddie Murphy, Halle Berry, Martin Lawrence, David Alan Grier, Chris Rock, Robin Givens, Eartha Kit, and Grace Jones. Boomerang earned $130 million globally and spawned a double platinum soundtrack produced by Antonio “L.A.” Reid and “Babyface” (Kenneth Edmunds), which made Billboard music chart history with Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road,” spending thirteen weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100.
Learning more about Hudlin’s personal background and the trajectory of his career will help explain how Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained (2012) came to fruition, and also why this humble East St. Louis, Illinois, creative and graduate of Harvard University (magna cum laude) in Visual and Environmental Studies, finds himself at the head of the pack currently producing the 88th Academy Awards. His creative authenticity, intellectual [End Page 45]
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curiosity, and rich understanding of black cinematic representation create the context for the impetus for Tarantino’s Django Unchained: the carefully crafted tone and affect. Here you will truly find a renaissance man who has a keen business acumen coupled with technical skill, insight, innovation, and risk-taking. Hudlin planted the seed that Tarantino watered and they [End Page 46] together riff and signify on old representations, creating this masterfully crafted new black cinematic hero called Django and this groundbreaking genre hybrid film called Django Unchained—that we now critically engage from multiple perspectives.
October 12, 2015, 6 p.m. PST
Thank you so much for taking time out of your hectic schedule to have this interview with me.
So what I want to do is first talk about the trajectory of your career, your childhood, and then Django Unchained.
On His Creative Voice
I’ve heard you say in many interviews that you are simply—at the core of who you are—a storyteller and you explore that through multiple media: film, television, digitally, etc. Tell me more about that, and what in your family or childhood cultivated that creative voice.
[laughter] Right, to be actually honest, what I am is a propagandist.
Yeah, I mean the fact that I’ve got a political agenda. Right? And I tell these stories because I want to shape public debate or at least get people to think. And, yeah, I love the arts and I love the storytelling aspect of it, but I also love the idea of influencing people. . . how they think and how they feel. So it truly pulls those two things together [stories and provoking thought]. Yeah, it is a part of a family tradition. Although some of it I wasn’t fully aware of it until I was already into show business.
Tell me about your grandfather. Was your grandfather or great-grandfather with the Underground Railroad?
Yeah. A great-uncle, Richard Hudlin—no, Peter Hudlin—was a conductor on the Underground...