Forest Whitaker has got this knack for taking huge figures from history and portraying them complex, fascinating, sometimes really fragile people. You’ve seen him as the star of countless great movies for over thirty years now. He has won plenty of awards including an Academy Award for best actor for his role as Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland.
When we spoke last year, he portrayed Archbishop Desmond Tutu in the film The Forgiven directed by Roland Joffe, who also made the classic 1984 film The Killing Fields.
The Forgiven takes place in South Africa, just after apartheid. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is in full swing- holding public and private testimony from the victims and perpetrators of past wrongs. Archbishop Tutu was the chairman of the commission, appointed by Nelson Mandela himself.
Whitaker chats with Jesse about Tutu’s struggle to love the most heinous of criminals and how he himself struggles to love people that have hurt him. He talks about the origin of his movie Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai and what he learned about acting while playing the title role. He also explains why he stands by his movie Battlefield Earth – despite the many haters ready to poke fun about how bad the film was.
These days you can see Forest on the tv show The Godfather of Harlem, which is wrapping up its first season on Epix. He plays Bumpy Johnson, the real life mob boss who operated in Harlem in the first half of the 20th century.
This interview originally aired in March of 2018
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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.
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