Lianne Spiderbaby (Lianne MacDougall) is a writer for Fangoria, Cineplex, Famous Monsters, FearNet, Film Journal International and Video Watchdog magazine. Her new book, Grindhouse Girls: Cinema’s Hardest Working Women, is being published by St. Martin's Press. Lianne is also the host of Fright Bytes, and her journalistic force has started to "bleed" out of the horror genre and into the mainstream. Lianne Spiderbaby holds an honors degree in Film Studies, University of Toronto.
Monday, January 7, 2013
Django Unchained: An Interview with, "Broomhilda", Kerry Washington
Kerry Washington, the female lead in Tarantino's Django Unchained is one of the smartest, most well spoken actresses I've ever met. This won't come as as surprise, the Scandal star is a frequent guest on Bill Maher's show, advocating for human rights and in particular, Obama's presidency and the social changes that overdue in the United States. Washington is also extremely beautiful and talented. Some women can have it all, it seems. Sitting with Washington in her trailer on the Louisiana Django filmset, just after sundown on a hot evening in June, we talk Django and working with Tarantino.
LIANNE: First of all, I want to say – it’s awesome
watching you ride in on a horse as Broomhilda.How did you come to be involved in the film and how did you
get the role?
WASHINGTON:I first heard about the film through one of the producers,
but I got the script from my agent a few months later.Shortly after that, I flew to New York
and met with Harvey Weinstein, Reginald Hudlin and Quentin.I was the first person they had met
with at this point, but it wasn’t a done deal.I’m not sure if Quentin knew what he was looking for, I got
the impression he might have wanted a more unknown actress.It wasn’t like I got the role during
that lunch at all.Quentin had
several others auditions after that, and then I eventually read for him.Then, he called me for the role.I was never sure that I had landed it
until he called me.
LIANNE: Tarantino is famous for the dialogue in his
films, what about the script and the character of Broomhilda Von Shaft appealed
to you personally?
WASHINGTON:It appealed to the romantic in me, to be honest, because
Django is on a quest to find me and to reunite with me.And you know, what I’m about to say might
make Black women want to pull their hair out – or mine – but even from a
feminist perspective, it was such a rare opportunity to be the princess and be
rescued.Black women in America
have not been able to afford the fantasy of being rescued by our husbands in a
tower, because we come out of this legacy as women not able to even really have
husbands.Most female slaves in
America didn’t have husbands, they couldn’t, and if they did, their husbands
and children could be shipped down the river at any moment.That’s where the saying comes from, to
be “shipped down the river” so the idea that this love between these two people
which isn’t even really legally sanctioned, that they would fight so deeply for
their marriage.It’s just such a
revolutionary idea, and I felt that it really honored the Black woman in a way
that I’ve never seen before.There
were things about the script that really disturbed me as well.To be honest, I’m not a person who
thrives on a violent aesthetic.I
don’t gravitate toward films that have a lot of gore or sex, or anything
exploitive.Yet I’m a huge fan of
Tarantino’s, which is part of why this film is extraordinary for me.
LIANNE: He does have a unique way of looking at the
world, and that is clear in all of his films.
WASHINGTON:Absolutely.He’s such a visionary with the way that he sees things.He’s so specific and unique, but at the
same time he also honors the legacy of filmmaking of the past in a really
interesting way.The script is
disturbing, but for better or for worst, I’ve gravitated toward this because it
does scare me a little bit, and as an artist, I want to grow and expand and go
into territories that are intimidating.That is where my journey should lead me.There are things about this history of slavery that scare me, too.I’d never seen anyone go so deep into the
ugliness of this part of American history and yet maintain this line of love,
hope, commitment and humanity.I
was really intrigued by Tarantino’s script.
LIANNE: The relationship between you and Django is
really interesting, too.It’s
swooping and grand, but it’s also very real, the dialogue that takes place between
them near the end – the relationship feels like fantasy, but it has a genuine,
real quality to it.
WASHINGTON:Yea, but we literally do ride off into the sunset
afterward!Or, I should say, the
sun that has already set.There
are these elements that are classic fairy tale princess in a tower elements in
this film, which is part of why I love it so much.I’d never seen African Americans in that context
before.I was also intrigued about
playing a woman that lived during this time, a Black woman who speaks German!
LIANNE: What are your hopes in terms of how the film
will appeal to audiences – nationally and internationally?
WASHINGTON:I imagine that there will be a huge range of reactions to
the film.People will have
opinions on completely opposite sides of the spectrum.I can see people saying that it’s their
all-time favorite, his best movie ever, and I can see other people saying that
they walked out.We’ll see!
LIANNE: Has there been a time working on the film that has been
really special for you, the ultimate experience as an actress?
WASHINGTON:The fact that we are able to shoot on this sacred land has
been really tremendous.For me,
the day that we shot the whipping stuff and Jamie was begging, and we were
getting slogged.The first time
that I heard the whip in that alley of slave shacks, it was so clear to me that
that is a sound that has echoed in that alley of trees and shacks for
centuries.I just felt very, it
all felt very poignant because it felt like we were… you know
the history of his country, and the history that took place on this land is so
dark that it is hard to even imagine, and that is our job as actors in this
film, we need to explore that and go to those dark realms.To do that, in a place where is
actually happened added another layer of poignancy and the importance of
telling this story, of exposing the story in this way.The importance of that really resonated
for me on that day.I don’t think
that the answer of moving through race issues is to reflect on the past all the
time, but I don’t think we move forward until we deal with the past, and this film
isn’t a documentary, but it’s amazing to me because Tarantino is so
fearless.He’s not intimidated by
violence or evil or the darker places in life.I feel like that is one of the reasons why him directing
this film is so special.So often
when we deal with this time period, we don’t want to really deal with the evil
and the violence.It’s too
painful, because it was just 150 years ago.For some, it’s too close to home – but it’s time.And Quentin isn’t afraid of that, so he
can tell this story in this way.
LIANNE: But as you said, the film is about love, as
film is dark, and there is evil and that doesn’t scare Quentin, and yet he is
connected enough to his own core sense of human goodness, that that is the
central theme of the film, this quest for love.That is the driving force.It’s a really amazing juxtaposition!
LIANNE: How has working with Tarantino been different
than working for other directors?
WASHINGTON:Quentin builds his set for play, whatever that may be.Sometimes between scenes, it’s been
Bobby Brown’s “Prerogative” and Jamie is dancing on the balcony of Candie Land,
and then other days, it’s been gospel all day on the sound system, all really
taking in the space.Quentin is
such an organic filmmaker that is very specific, but he rolls with the work as
this living and breathing experience.He has changed the script several times as well, the film is so
different from how it started out in the beginning, and Quentin has made
several script changes because of how compassionate he is as a
storyteller.The film has had an
impact on him, and he’s seen certain moments in the film, and he’s though, “Oh,
this is different now, my characters are living this out, and we need to change
this down the line…” and so
he does.He is really living with
the material in such an honest way, and he’s just a lot of fun.He works very hard and he plays very
Django Unchained is currently in theatres everywhere.