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FOCUS: Spike Lee Sees the Parallels
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=58568"><span class="small">Vinson Cunningham, The New Yorker</span></a>   
Sunday, 07 March 2021 13:01

Cunningham writes: "Spike Lee's 'Da 5 Bloods,' released last summer on Netflix, is the story of four friends who served together during the Vietnam War."

Spike Lee in his production offices in Brooklyn, New York. (photo: Shaniqwa Jarvis/Observer New Review)
Spike Lee in his production offices in Brooklyn, New York. (photo: Shaniqwa Jarvis/Observer New Review)

Spike Lee Sees the Parallels

By Vinson Cunningham, The New Yorker

07 March 21

A conversation with the director about “Da 5 Bloods,” racial uprisings, and catching hell.

pike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods,” released last summer on Netflix, is the story of four friends who served together during the Vietnam War. Decades later, the group—played by Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, Isiah Whitlock, Jr., and, in what may be the performance of his career, Delroy Lindo—returns to Vietnam, in order to reclaim a treasure that they left behind. The film is a pointed and melancholy meditation on warfare, memory, mammon, and trauma undiluted by time’s passage. To watch it is to be haunted, in multiple ways. First, by a soundtrack that leans heavily on Marvin Gaye’s classic protest album, “What’s Going On,” making Gaye, with his wistful cynicism—“Are things really getting better like the newspaper said?”—almost a character in the film. And then there’s the sight of Chadwick Boseman, who died not long after the movie’s release, at the age of forty-three, of cancer. Boseman plays Norman, the unofficial and unsubtly Christlike leader of the group, who did not survive the war. With one exception, he appears only during the film’s extended flashbacks, and therefore seems, uncannily, like a spectral visitor.

I first spoke with Lee about the movie in June, just before it was released, while protests, sparked by the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police, raged in American streets. Donald Trump, whom Lee consistently referred to as Agent Orange, was still President. We spoke again in late February. In between, Lee had released another movie, the performance film “American Utopia,” a cinematic reimagining of David Byrne’s recent Broadway show. Just after our last conversation, HBO announced that Lee was at work on a multipart documentary for the network, “NYC Epicenters 9/11 → 2021 ½,” which will narrate the past two decades in New York, bookended by 9/11 and the coronavirus, and will première later this year.

My interviews with Lee have been condensed for length and edited for clarity. In June and again in February, we talked about the state of New York and the country, the coronavirus pandemic, and Lee’s relationship with the New York Knicks. And we talked about the movies, both his own—from “Do the Right Thing” to “Bamboozled,” his satire about minstrelsy and modern show business, to “BlacKkKlansman”—and those that shaped him. “Da 5 Bloods” is, like many of Lee’s films, a kind of personal archive: it pays homage to, among other works, John Huston’s “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” which Lee assigned to me as homework, and “Apocalypse Now,” which was, for him, a formative moviegoing experience. “Da 5 Bloods” is also a revisitation of the cultural milieu of Lee’s youth, during the great conflagrations of the late sixties. The bloodshed, social strife, distant war, and sudden upswellings of domestic revolt on display in that era constituted Lee’s earliest conscious exposure to politics, and, via television, also became his introduction to American visual culture. In one of the flashback sections of “Da 5 Bloods,” the men learn that Martin Luther King, Jr., a much-mentioned guardian angel in Lee’s films, has been assassinated. Our conversation began with Lee’s own experience of that moment.

How old were you then?

In ’68? I was eleven.

Was your home the kind of home where you would sit and talk about the stuff you were seeing on the TV?

Oh, yes. And not just the TV—the stuff that we’d seen out on the streets, because there was a war in America, too, a war about the Vietnam war.

Were your folks pretty antiwar?

Oh, yeah. Antiwar, anti-racist, all that stuff.

Did you go to protests as a kid?

No, they didn’t take me to protests. But my mother’s old friend took me to D.C., back in the day, on that Eastern Shuttle, with the Poor People’s Campaign. Also, my mother took me to see Dr. King speak at this church in Brooklyn Heights.

“Da 5 Bloods” has two bookends. One is Muhammad Ali. The other is Dr. Martin Luther King. Both were critics of that war, and both of them carried a great price. Ali had a heavyweight-champion belt stripped from him. He lost prime years of his athleticism, which you can never regain. And Dr. King, I think that that’s what got him assassinated. When he came out against the war, he’s talking against the war machine—big money. He wasn’t talking about, let’s let Black people drink out of a white water fountain, or ride the bus. And, also, L.B.J. felt betrayed, because they had been partners on the 1964 Civil Rights Act. So L.B.J. probably felt that he got stabbed in the back. And wars—people make money! How much money did Dow Chemical make being at war making napalm?

So when he came out against the war, that was it. And the scene we have, his speech, which he gave at Riverside Church, April 4th, 1967—he died a year later, to the day. He was assassinated because he was fucking with people’s money. Big money. That’s what I think. And J. Edgar Hoover and the F.B.I., they weren’t helping either. And, what was his name, James Earl Ray? What, he got arrested in London? He assassinated Martin King, Jr., and he’s able to get out of the country? Come on now. How do you get from Memphis to London? And they knew who he was!

I’m looking this up now. He went from Canada to Portugal, to London, and was arrested in London two months after King’s death.

WTF!? He had no help doing that? Passport? Money? Come on now. He did not act alone.

I was so struck at the beginning of “Da 5 Bloods” by the news footage, which we’ve all seen on TV. Nguyễn Văn Lém getting shot in the middle of the street, for instance—images that just horrify you.

Here’s the thing, though: people never seen that footage. They only saw the stills of the photograph. They never showed that. I didn’t even know until doing research that there was moving footage of that. I just thought it was a still photograph.

You’re trying to show people from the very beginning that this wasn’t a pretty, romantic American narrative—there were people on fire.

It’s a prologue, you know? And Muhammad Ali shoulders the prologue, and Dr. Martin Luther King shoulders the epilogue.

At one point, Otis, Clarke Peters’s character, says that Norman was both their Malcolm X and their Martin Luther King—that he channelled both of these sides of this tradition that we’ve inherited. He was both prologue and epilogue, in a way.

That goes back to the credits of “Do the Right Thing,” where we had Dr. King’s take on nonviolence and Malcolm X’s take on self-defense. And there are a lot of people who got that meaning wrong, who thought I was saying that you had to make a choice. That was not the case at all. I was trying to say that both philosophies could work. There’s a reason why Smiley is walking around trying to sell that postcard, which he colors, of the only picture taken of Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. And, before they got assassinated, both men were on their way to finding common ground, to move this thing forward.

I’ve been thinking about those credits from “Do the Right Thing,” watching the scenes on TV these days. Some of the conversations that are happening now about peaceful versus, let’s say, non-peaceful protesting have reminded me of that moment.

I’m sixty-three, so I remember the night Dr. King got assassinated. I remember watching the news where over a hundred cities in America were up in flames. That’s in the film.

Crazy thing: the first time I ever showed “Malcolm X” to the Warner Bros. Studio heads, Bob Daly and Terry Semel, was the day of the uprising in L.A., behind the verdict of Rodney King. If I would’ve known . . .

Our curfew here in New York City ended yesterday, and I found out that the last time there was a curfew there was a riot in 1943, when a Black soldier got shot by a cop. When people, historically, are fed up, they gotta vent their rage, so I was not surprised with the people reacting in the way they did to the killing of George Floyd, who’s being laid to rest today.

I wanted to ask you a question about “Da 5 Bloods” that I’ve not seen anybody ask you. You have a character named Eddie; you have characters named Otis, Paul, Melvin, David.

You’re the fourth person to get this.

Oh, goddammit. O.K. The Temptations—why did you do that?

I had five guys. I love the Temptations. Motown, Marvin Gaye. Loved them. They loved Marvin. So it was just, like, let’s slip that in. The five Bloods are named after the five original Temptations.

You mentioned Marvin. There’s beautiful scoring by Terence Blanchard all throughout the film. The pop-music soundtrack we get is all Marvin’s. How did you arrive at that choice?

Marvin had an older brother named Franklin, who did a three-year tour of Vietnam. He was a radio operator, and he would write letters back home. So Marvin was getting personal accounts from his older brother, and he’s also seeing the Black vets come back from Vietnam. My thinking: I may be wrong, but those two things contributed toward the impetus for one of the greatest albums of all time, “What’s Going On.”

Also, this is the album those guys were listening to. “Inner City Blues” is told from the viewpoint of a Black soldier coming back from Vietnam—back to the world, as they say. Back to the world.

There’s a scene where Delroy Lindo is going through the jungle, and the music we hear is just the vocal track for “What’s Going On.”

A cappella version. My brother Cinque, who does all my behind-the-scenes for all my films—it’s C-I-N-Q-U-E, which is five. He was the fifth child. He said, “You ever heard this before?” He played it for me. I said, “Where’d you get it from?” He said, “It was on the Internet.” “We’re using it.”

I loved the inclusion of Hanoi Hannah. There was this current of information through the radio going on between the North Vietnamese and these Black soldiers—

That stuff going between the music. And this happened in World War II, with Axis Sally, in Nazi Germany. They had Tokyo Rose in Japan. The only reason why the American soldiers listened is because they listened to the music, and then in between the songs the so-called propaganda would go. But they were listening for the music. And so, in Vietnam, Hanoi Hannah was playing rock and roll and Motown.

“Here’s this music you love, and also: we’re on your side.”

I did a film called “Miracle at St. Anna,” and we had a scene with Axis Sally, who was from Ohio. Goebbels, Hitler, and Nazi Germany made appeals to Black soldiers. And those words you hear from Hanoi Hannah in “Da 5 Bloods,” I just changed a couple of words—that was her stuff, verbatim. I got it off YouTube.

When you’re doing something that has such a rich and specific history, how do you research it? How do you start?

I have a great researcher. Her name is Judy Aley, she’s been with me a long time, and I tell her, “Give me everything. Everything.” And I read it. Any film I do, I do have to have research. Even before I start writing, I gotta have research.

Otis talks about Norman as “the best damn soldier that ever lived.” Do you see these men as heroes? Is it possible to be a hero in an unjust war?

I think so, because soldiers have to take orders. Now, there are some soldiers, they get an order like “Gotta kill that kid”—there’s people who do not do that. But the answer is a little deeper than that. Chadwick’s character, through Norm, brings up Crispus Attucks. Have you ever heard of him before?

First American, white or Black, to die for America in the Revolution, right?


Boston Massacre.

From the get-go, Black women and men have been fighting for this country with the hope, with the prayer that we get our equal rights, that America would make its promise to its brothers, sisters, its ancestors stolen from Mother Africa in the first slave ship that was brought to Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619. It’s always a promise, you know? It’s the promise of this country, and that’s why we’ve fought and died for the red, white, and blue.

That bullshit that Agent Orange did to Kaepernick, where he changed the narrative by saying that Kaepernick, by kneeling—that was disrespect to the flag and the armed forces? And now the commissioner is apologizing to the Black players, apologizing to Kaepernick, but never saying his name. And I remember Agent Orange calling all the Black players sons of bitches.

So, my thing is this: you can’t get more patriotic than speaking truth to power about what is wrong with this country. That’s a patriotic act of the utmost. When you not just going along to get along, where you was saying, “No, this is wrong. No, this is hateful. No, this is shameful.” Those are patriotic acts. What’s not patriotic is to say to those people, “America: love it or leave it.” And the last people to say to, in America, “Love it or leave it,” is Black folks, because we built this bitch. I think this motherfucking country was built upon the motherfucking racist foundation and stealing of the land from a native people—genocide committed against native people, paired with slavery. That is the foundation of the United States of America. So, anybody that says that Blacks—they might say “the African-Americans”—“go back where you came from,” first of all, we didn’t come here on our own will. Get that straight.

The men in this movie, like you say, they fought for this country based on a promise—despite these rotten foundations—that things would get better. And it seemed to me that them going back to get this gold was symbolic of that, in a way.

Explain that point a little better so I can understand it. It was symbolic of what?

Well, the gold is like reparations, as they say.


This is the promise. “We’re gonna get what we earned on that battlefield.” And the moment they get it, it’s nothing but problems. So it seemed to me as if you were critiquing the idea that there could ever be this promise, that you could win by serving the country in that way.

Hmm, well . . . The things in my film, my brother, I just like to leave people, you know? I don’t wanna tell them if they’re right or wrong. That’s your interpretation, so I respect it.

But, the thing, though, is that gold does strange things to people—I don’t care who you are. And that’s where the homage is to “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” one of the great, great films of all time. Have you ever seen that film?

I haven’t.


I haven’t! I’ll go back—

I got some homework for you. You need to see the movie! “Treasure of the Sierra Madre.” Directed by John Huston, who directed his father Walter Huston. Also starring Humphrey Bogart.

I’m gonna watch it.

As you’re figuring out what these soldiers were going through, doing your research, how do you then transmit that to your actors? Are they doing that research alongside you?

Actors have their own various ways they want to get into the character. I gave them what they were willing to read, if they felt they needed it. There’s a Wallace Terry book called “Bloods,” which is an oral history of African-American Vietnam soldiers. We had a boot camp, and a military adviser that dealt with the actors in Vietnam. And there were several Vietnam vets who were in Thailand that came over to speak to the actors.

Even as you’re showing us these men, and humanizing them, you’re also showing the everyday side of the Vietnamese. There’s a moment when Viet Cong are passing by the Bloods just before they get into a gunfight, and the Viet Cong are talking about their wives and about things back home. What was your approach to characterizing the other side in that war?

Well, I was not gonna demonize the Vietnamese. In fact, when I would stay amongst Vietnamese people, and I would talk about the Vietnam War, they’d say, “No, no, Spike. No, no, no. We call it the American War.” They would correct me with a quickness. “There was a French War, and there was an American War. You countries tried to colonize us.” And that’s the truth, so I was not gonna portray these people the way that sometimes they’ve been dehumanized in other Vietnam films.

Are there veterans in your family?

My father had flat feet, so he didn’t go, but his two brothers, they were in that group that drove trucks for Patton. And my grandpa—this is really crazy—my grandfather’s sister, who I never met, had a son. And, just a couple months ago, I got a letter from the United States Army saying that I’m related to him and that they’re still trying to find his remains in Italy.


And he was in the same group that was in my film “Miracle at St. Anna,” the 92nd Division of Buffalo soldiers. So that was crazy. I never heard of him. I never heard my grandfather talk about this sister.

And they just reached out to you out of nowhere?

Out of nowhere. The armed forces, to their credit, they have whole divisions that their only job is to let relatives know their sons or daughters got killed in wars.

And from the people who you did know that served, your uncles, would they tell stories about being overseas?

They never talked about it. But that’s how Patton’s Army kept going. They had all these Black truck drivers, and they only could drive at night with the lights out.

Your most compelling character, the one played by Lindo, is a Trump supporter. Nobody has done as much visually with the MAGA hat as you do in this film. You cut away to one of Trump’s actual rallies, with that “Blacks for Trump” guy, which—I still can’t believe that that happened. What was the thinking behind that decision?

We needed something from one of the four guys that would bring a friction—that would bring beef, that would bring static. And Kevin [Willmott] and I, my co-writer, the best thing that we could come up with was that Paul be an Agent Orange supporter.

I wanted to talk about the flashback scenes, which take the movie into a sort of magical space. The actors don’t look any younger, which almost makes those scenes seem like dreams.

It was, to them—it was going back in their memory. And, I might add, a bad dream. These guys, these Americans, young, Black, brown—you have people enlisting who weren’t even of age. Sixteen, seventeen years old, haven’t graduated high school, listening to “Go to Vietnam and protect the United States of America from Communism.” “Communism must be stopped.”

You watched that stuff on TV, and, in the movie, it did look like that newsreel style—you change the aspect ratio, the dimensions of the picture.

When we shot Super 16, it was exactly like the stuff I saw on television. That’s the same cameras, same stock I saw on my television. The Vietnam War was the first war that was televised in American homes. And, also, it always lets the audience know: 16-millimeter, we’re in a flashback.

How do you go about portraying violence without seeming to valorize it? Does that ever worry you?

No, because I had a great military adviser. He was in Vietnam, and I told him, “We’re not trying to do Hollywood stuff. We want to storyboard just the way it happened—the way battles happen.” And you seen the results. And, also, I already done bigger battle scenes in the “Miracle at St. Anna,” which we shot in Italy. So that helped.

We were talking before about the agitation in the streets. I just watched “When the Levees Broke” again.

Watched all four hours?

I watched all four hours.

Really? Thank you.

I loved it when it came out, and I—

And now, if you’ve had enough of it, now you gotta go see “If God Is Willing and da Creek Don’t Rise,” the aftermath. We came back to New Orleans years later to do the follow-up.

I will. I went back to “When the Levees Broke” because I was thinking about COVID-19 and how it’s affecting Black communities disproportionately.

Black and brown.


I mean, you don’t have to work very hard to draw the parallels between the Vietnam War and Katrina and the coronavirus. The people on the bottom, we’re gonna catch hell, no matter what it is: war, pandemic. Just G.P. Just a general principle.

The footage that’s coming out now, these clashes between protesters and cops, do you see that bringing back a kind of militant activism?

I don’t know, I wouldn’t have the word “militant” to it. I don’t use the word “riots”—I say “uprising.”

Right. It’s interesting. I don’t think “militant” is bad, even.

Yeah, but that’s one of those code words. So I don’t say it. I’m not going to use it.

In your movie “BlacKkKlansman,” from a couple years back, there’s an extended scene of a speech—it’s not found footage, but it’s supposed to be Stokely Carmichael.

Kwame Ture.

Yes, I’m sorry. The drama falls away, and there’s a moment of oratory. What does that do for you when you are structuring a film?

When you have great speeches—and all those speeches in “Malcolm X,” those are Malcolm’s words, and the speech from Kwame Ture in “BlacKkKlansman” is the compilation of several of his speeches. So that’s coming from the people who spoke it, the people who stood up, who were speaking truth to power. It’s hard to write stuff better than what they say. We’re talking about great orators. They know how to hold a crowd captive and relay the message, break it down to its most simplest form so people understand what you’re trying to tell them.

At the end of “Da 5 Bloods,” you make an explicit connection to Black Lives Matter, outside the narrative, in a sense. When you were a film student, was that all-approaches kind of thing encouraged?

No, no. All that stuff has come as my growth and development as a filmmaker. I had nothing like that in film school. But, to be honest, I didn’t go to film school thinking that the professors were going to teach me how to be a filmmaker. And I say that with no disrespect. All I wanted—and Ernest Dickerson and Ang Lee, who were my classmates, too—we just wanted the equipment. We wanted the equipment to make our films. We wanted to learn the basic stuff—how to read a light meter and this and that. But, as far as teach us how to make a movie, we would teach ourselves. Give us equipment.

The last time we spoke, you told me that I needed to watch “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.” It’s amazing. And I could definitely see the homage to it in “Da 5 Bloods.” Did you go into the movie with the plan for that in mind?

When the producer, Lloyd Levin, brought the script to my co-writer, Kevin Willmott, the whole “Sierra Madre” thing was already in there. Lloyd Levin read an article, and in that article I talk about how “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” was one of my favorite films. He read that and said, “Well, let me send a script to Spike.” That’s how it happened.

What about the homages that you make a point of putting in yourself?

Well, how can I do a film about Vietnam without paying homage to one of the greatest Vietnam films ever? Francis is my guy. And the summer between me graduating Morehouse and then going to N.Y.U. film school in the fall, I was lucky enough to get an internship at Columbia Pictures. First time I’d ever been in L.A. And I was at the first screening—not a première, but the first public screening—of “Apocalypse Now,” at the Cinerama Dome, on Sunset Boulevard. And every time I see Francis, I bring it up. He says, “Spike, you told me that a million times already.” But I only say that because it had a great impact on me. I remember sitting in the Cinerama Dome and—with the great sound work by Walter Murch—these helicopters flying over my head. I’m turning around, looking, like, Where the fuck is this helicopter coming from?

Since the last time we spoke, Chadwick Boseman passed away, which is still a shocking tragedy. Has his passing changed the film for you at all?

Oh, yes, yes, yes, yes. Tonya, my wife, and I, we watched the film the next day after we heard that horrible news. And the whole performance changed to me. And it was great, but that last scene where he comes back as a ghost? It just, for me, went into the stratosphere. Knowing that Chad was no longer with us, in a physical sense, and, in that specific scene, he’s playing a ghost . . . That shook me.

I was thinking about other great performances in your movies. Last year, Criterion did “Bamboozled.” That movie came out when I was in high school, and it was my favorite movie. I hadn’t watched it in a long time.

It holds up?

You don’t need me to tell you. But it hit me a little differently. I was wondering, this time, how you convinced Savion Glover and Tommy Davidson—even the Roots—to do those performances. Were they, like, “Hell, no, Spike”?

You’re talking about the Roots, a.k.a., in the film, the Alabama Porch Monkeys?

The Alabama Porch Monkeys, man. Not to mention Tommy Davidson as Sleep ’n Eat and Glover as Mantan. How did you get these proud Black men—how did you get them on your side?

They believed in the script. They believed in me. And they know that people understand that they’re acting in this film. I think it was harder for the Roots. But it’s overlooked: Damon Wayans was phenomenal in that. And, also, let’s not forget our sisters. Jada Pinkett! She came with it.

That scene with her and Mos Def—they’re having an argument, and she won’t call him Big Blak Afrika, his stage name.

That sibling stuff—that big-brother, little-sister stuff.

I hadn’t thought about it like that. And I always loved: “To be or not to be, that’s the motherfucking question.”

The late, great Thomas Jefferson Byrd.

A legend. And I was so sad at his passing, and I know him so much from your movies.

It wasn’t a passing, it was murder.

It’s so sad.

He had still so much to share with the world. And, again, we got to do something about these guns.

In New York City, too, gun violence is up.

Here’s the thing, though. I think that speaks to—we got to deal with mental health. These people are not getting the care that they need.

This moment—I don’t know, it seems eerie and odd. Does it remind you of any other time? Just growing up in the city, does it remind you of some other moment in the city’s history?

No. Not even post-9/11. This a whole ’nother level. At one point, we were the epicenter. For that 19. For that ’rona. Sirens going off 24/7. It was bedlam.

I feel like a lot of us are still just a little bit traumatized from hearing that.

It was bananas. Crazy.

Awards season is coming up. You won an Oscar, two years ago, for the script for “BlacKkKlansman.” And you were nominated then—for the first time—for Best Director. Do you think that the appreciation of the Oscars for the art of Black people and people of color has changed?

I definitely think that progress was made, but it started with the hashtag “Oscars so white.” And the Academy had to look themselves in the mirror, and they came to the thinking that the voting membership should look more like the mosaic of this country. And they opened up the ranks. That definitely changed the complexion. Pun intended.

In the middle of doing your work, how much does that stuff matter? Do you care? Does it matter for history? Legacy?

I’ve had a very rocky relationship with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but I think that they’re doing genuine work to put stuff in order, to make their voting body reflect more what America is, and it’s something that I think they believe in. I also understand that it’s not going to happen overnight.

The last time we talked, it was the summer, and what you called—and I think rightly called—an uprising was happening all over the country, after the murder of George Floyd. We talked about how “Do the Right Thing” is still in conversation with things that are happening in America. I wonder if similar thoughts have been bouncing around in your head since this—whatever you want to call itputsch, mob, happened on January 6th.

Insurrection. I would like to say this: I would like to commend President Joe Biden for saying to cameras, to the whole world, that if you flip the script and that had been Black Lives Matter protesters, it would have been a lot different. Black bodies would have been piled up on each other, dead. I read today’s paper: they identified police officers amongst the rioters. They should be fired. And no pension. You should not be able to be a policeman anywhere in the United States after that. Nowhere. In my opinion.

I also wanted to ask you about another movie you made last year, “American Utopia.” I was at that show as a theatre reviewer, on Broadway, and then I saw your film, which is a different experience of it. There’s a whole part of your career—“The Original Kings of Comedy,” Jerrod Carmichael

“Passing Strange.”

Even “Kobe Doin’ Work,” which I have been thinking about for the past year because of Kobe’s passing. I wanted to know how you think about filming live performance. What does it satisfy for you?

It is another expression of my art—and the people who I do, I think they’re great artists, great athletes. David Byrne. Stew and Heidi. Kobe. I did several things for John Leguizamo, too, his Broadway shows. But I’m a director: I don’t just set up as many cameras as I can and just turn on the cameras and turn off the cameras when the show’s off. I really try to work toward—with my great D.P.s, like Ellen Kuras, Matty Libatique—trying to make them cinematic.

You mentioned John Leguizamo. You have acted in many films, and hearing you talk is its own thing—I’ve often wondered if you would perform some kind of one-person show and film it yourself.

Never. That would close in one night.

I don’t know, man.

No, I’m good. I don’t need to do that.

O.K. Speaking, though, of performance, I saw in Deadline that you wrote the script for a musical about Viagra?

Co-wrote. My co-writer, his name is Kwame Kwei-Armah. Black British guy. It’ll be my first singing-and-dancing, swinging musical. And it’s about how Viagra came to the world, no pun intended, through Pfizer.

We’re talking about Pfizer quite a lot these days with all the vaccinations.

In fact, a week from this Friday, I go to N.Y.U. to get my second Pfizer vaccine shot.

Congratulations! I’m glad.

I liked it. I like to say I did not cut in line. I’m an educator through N.Y.U., at the graduate school. So it’s legit.

With the vaccine rolling out, they’re letting people back into Madison Square Garden. You had some problems with the administration there. I’m wondering if you’re going to be in the building. This is an exciting season.

I love what President Leon Rose is doing. Coach Thibs. Randle is having an All-Star year. Our rookie, Quickley, love him.

He’s so good.

My difficulties with that other person will never get in the way of my love for the orange and blue. Never.

All right. I’m going to be looking for you in the stands then.

We win tonight, we’re going to be .500. We haven’t been .500 at this stage of the season in years.

Since that time we went to the second round of the playoffs, right?

I’m looking at orange-and-blue skies.

Can I ask you a kind of random question? Did you leave Twitter?

No, I’m not on Twitter. What happened?

Oh, no, I just wondered—I thought that I knew you had a handle on there, and I was looking for it, but it wasn’t there anymore.

Black Twitter, if they get on you, they tear you another butthole. I really don’t need that negativity. I’m on Instagram. your social media marketing partner