Lincoln in Whiteface

Don Cheadle and Jeffrey Wright, the Battling Brothers of ‘Topdog/Underdog’

Jeffrey, you've taken a slower pace when it comes to movies, and you're about to become a daddy, too.

WRIGHT: I've found film work to be, with maybe two exceptions, unfulfilling as a craft, because I don't edit my performance. The director does—it's a director's medium. But it's difficult to find directors whose voice I respect and who share a perspective on the work and the world. With film I often have to put on a mask to reveal a mask, much like Lincoln does. I find that very difficult sometimes—to put on a lie to reveal a veiled truth. I didn't go into acting to make money. I went into it to get some shit off my chest.

Talk about working with George Wolfe.

Cheadle and Wright build an ‘‘uncomfort zone’’ in Suzan-Lori Parks’s new play.
Photograph by Robin Holland
Cheadle and Wright build an ‘‘uncomfort zone’’ in Suzan-Lori Parks’s new play.

CHEADLE: This is a first time for me. He's pulled my coat on a couple of things. I just think he's so smart and really odd in a very good way—in the way he thinks and the way events shake down for him in the basement of this piece, not just up high. He's been very generous and available. It's not like, "This is my artistic process. Do what I say and shut up." He's been available to harvest the shit out of these characters.

WRIGHT: There's a line in Angels in America—I think it was Roy Cohn's character, but, you know, the villain often speaks the truth. He says, "No one in this world makes it unless someone older and wiser takes an interest in them." George is like that person for me.

I don't think you've let him down yet.

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