12 Years a Slave Interview
12 Years a Slave Interview
Were there any moments when you first read the book or saw the script that you were uncomfortable about going through with? Steve, you’ve mentioned before about actors doing a job. Were there any scenes you were concerned about putting your actors through?

Chiwetel Ejiofor

When I read it I was stunned by it. As a piece, you’re going to have to just trust it. As an actor you’re going to have to slip down the rabbit hole and see what happens, because there’s no other way of telling the story. It’s not like I wasn’t aware of Steve and his films. I knew he would go to all the places you have to go to and that’s what I wanted. I thought it was the only way.

In a way, you can’t tell a story about slavery unless you tell it. People talk about violence and stuff, but it’s a strange handicap if you can’t talk about violence in a film about slavery. You’re not going to do justice to any of the people involved. You’re certainly not going to do justice to Solomon Northup and what he went through. It’s like doing that about the Second World War, you can’t tell these stories without these major parts of what they are. I read that, and I read into that. I read into the script that there was obviously going to be these struggles that he went through, and I wanted to embrace that.
When you approached this role, how did you go about ensuring the audience stay attached and engaged with your character, when essentially he’s becoming more introvert throughout that hardship until the final scenes?

Chiwetel Ejiofor

I think because, when I first read the screenplay and when I first read the book, I had a very immersive experience with it. I just felt like I was reading, like I was observing someone and at a certain point I was inside the experience with it. When certain things happen to him, I would feel like I was very emotionally connected. And I felt like there’s something about it that’s very immersive.

I suppose in a way, we can all relate, or we can all easily understand some of the sense of being ripped away from everything you hold dear. And putinto this bizarre universe that he’s walking you through. I felt that the power of that can be conveyed in any medium. I think that’s why it’s such a strong book, and why it’s such a strong screenplay. Actually, what Solomon is relating, is something that people quickly get on board with, quickly understand.

I wasn’t worried about that, in a way. So I didn’t feel like it was my job to try and carry anybody through it, which I thought might have been interrupting. I just felt like if I kept close to Solomon and told his story, that I kind of trusted in the narrative, and of course I trusted in Steve. I felt like that was the way that people connect with it.
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Content updated: 25/04/2019 20:54

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