Director George C. Wolfe discusses Rustin

October 28, 2023 DGA Membership Screening Q&As in LA & NY

The untold story of a gay civil rights activist who was elemental to historic events like the March on Washington, is revealed in Director George C. Wolfe’s biographical drama, Rustin.

Wolfe’s film tells the true story of Bayard Rustin, an advisor to Martin Luther King Jr., who dedicated his life to the quest for racial equality, human rights and worldwide democracy. However, as an openly gay Black man, he is all but erased from the civil rights movement he helped build.

On October 7, after the DGA membership screening in Los Angeles, Wolfe discussed the making of Rustin during a Q&A moderated by Director Reinaldo Marcus Green (King Richard). He also spoke about the film in a conversation moderated by Director Spike Lee (Da 5 Bloods) following the New York DGA screening on October 28.

During the Los Angeles conversation, Wolfe spoke about working with his actors.

“The rehearsal process is so crucial because actors work very differently and it’s the time where you can evolve your very specific language with each of them, and they can share with you their language, so you’re building a dialogue that will ultimately, hopefully, lead to trust. And in the equation of trust, I think you can act many things; I don’t think you can’t act vulnerability. You have to create the space where the actors feel safe to show as much vulnerability as they possibly can. Then all the craft work and the hard work that they’ve done — putting them together in this sort of creative boxing ring, where the force of an Audra McDonald or the force of a Jeffrey Wright or the force of a CCH Pounder comes into contact with the force of a Colman Domingo — vulnerability and craft and skill and agenda collide with one another. And in that collision, something surprising and miraculous and unknown happens. I think that’s how amazing and startling work happens and you have to protect that.”

Wolfe’s other directorial credits include the feature films Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, You’re Not You and Nights in Rodanthe; and the episodes “Fires in the Mirror” of the series American Playhouse and “The Colored Museum” of the series Great Performances. He was nominated for the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Movies for Television and Mini-Series in 2017 for The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and won the award in that same category in 2005 for Lackawanna Blues (in a tie with Joseph Sargent for Warm Springs).

Wolfe has been a DGA member since 1990.


Q&A photos by Quintin Lundy (LA) & Ryan Jensen (NY) – Print courtesy of Netflix

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