Boots Riley

25th July 2023

Boots Riley is known nowadays for his work as a writer, but he’s been making waves as an artist for years. In his early 20s, he was the frontman and founder of the Coup, a fiercely political hip-hop group from the Bay Area. But in recent years, Boots has made his way over to film-making. In 2018, he wrote and directed his first ever feature film: Sorry To Bother You. If you saw it, you know it is hilarious and scary and insightful and generally very bonkers. And then Boots had another idea. His new show I’m A Virgo takes the word bonkers to new heights, literally. It’s a story about a 13-ft-tall giant, a Black teenager living in the Bay Area. But the show’s not about his super powers. It’s about how he sees himself, and the little personal things about him — like his star sign. I’m a Virgo is a great show, but this isn’t an interview about I’m a Virgo. Boots Riley is a writer. And his union, the Writers Guild of America, has been on strike since May. On Bullseye, we’ll talk about what is at stake in the dispute between the WGA and the studio heads – represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). Plus, we’ll get into his early career as a rapper and his roots in activism.

Episode notes

Photo by Presley Ann/Getty Images

Boots Riley is known nowadays for his work as a writer, but he’s been making waves as an artist for years. 

Boots was born into activism. His parents were both organizers, so he’s been active in progressive politics before he was old enough to drive. That activism bled into his art. 

In his early 20s, Boots started making music. He was the frontman and founder of the Coup, a fiercely political hip-hop group from the Bay Area. 

But in recent years, Boots has made his way over to film-making. 

In 2018, he wrote and directed his first ever feature film: Sorry To Bother You. If you saw it, you know it is hilarious and scary and insightful and generally very bonkers.

And then Boots had another idea. His new show I’m A Virgo takes the word bonkers to new heights, literally.

It’s a story about a 13-ft-tall giant, a Black teenager living in the Bay Area. But the show’s not about his super powers. It’s about how he sees himself, and the little personal things about him like his star sign. 

Jharrel Jerome stars as Cootie, the aforementioned 13-ft-tall giant. Cootie was born and raised in Oakland. First, crammed into a normal house with his aunt and uncle. Then, in a giant-sized shack out back. He never shows himself to the outside world. 

When the show starts, Cootie turns 19. His family wants him to stay hidden, but he decides to go out into the world. What could go wrong?

I’m a Virgo is a great show, you should see it. But this isn’t an interview about I’m a Virgo. 

Boots Riley is a writer. And his union, the Writers Guild of America, has been on strike since May. 

On Bullseye, we’ll talk about what is at stake in the dispute between the WGA and the studio heads – represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). Plus, we’ll get into his early career as a rapper and his roots in activism. 

Note: This interview was taped before SAG-AFTRA went on strike and in accordance with WGA press guidelines for striking guild members.  

In this episode...

Senior Producer
Producer
Maximum Fun Producer
Maximum Fun Production Fellow

Guests

  • Boots Riley

About the show

Bullseye is a celebration of the best of arts and culture in public radio form. Host Jesse Thorn sifts the wheat from the chaff to bring you in-depth interviews with the most revered and revolutionary minds in our culture.

Bullseye has been featured in Time, The New York Times, GQ and McSweeney’s, which called it “the kind of show people listen to in a more perfect world.” Since April 2013, the show has been distributed by NPR.

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Senior Producer

Producer

Maximum Fun Producer

Maximum Fun Production Fellow

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