Spike Lee on ‘She’s Gotta Have It,’ Working with Netflix, and ‘Agent Orange’

Spike Lee launched his film career with the 1986 movie “She’s Gotta Have It,” about an artist named Nola Darling, juggling her friends, her job — and three relationships. Now the iconic film has been reimagined as a TV series for Netflix.

Why did you want to turn the film into a TV series?

It was not my idea — it was my wife’s idea. Tonya had the vision. It was her vision. I said that’s a good idea. Let’s try to do it. It was just a matter of getting it set up [at a network]. But once she said it, it was like lightning.

Why was Netflix the right home for it?

They were the ones that believed it. Other places, they just didn’t understand it, it’s cultural significance. They just missed it. It happens all the time.

What’s changed since the film first came out?

I wrote the script in 1985, and it’s been over three decades. Nola was ahead of her time. A lot of issues that affect women, particularly black women, are still here today. That hasn’t changed. There’s some advances and stuff that’s been stagnant, with women’s reproductive rights. And particularly with this newest White House. Under Agent Orange, every day they’re attempting to roll back the clock. Agent Orange has been on a mission to obliterate the legacy of Obama’s eight years. Based on the executive orders he’s signed, I can’t keep up.

What do you think the role of entertainment is in this climate?

As I’ve gotten older, I don’t think the way I used to. It’s an individual choice that all of us have to make. I’m not here to argue with people. Other people say I want my art to impact the world, reflect what’s going on in the world. It’s a choice which artists make.

You cast DeWanda Wise as Nola. What did she bring to the role?

You just try to get the right person for the role. She had the qualities I felt that the original had, and we could build on it from there. I will say this: Nola is a cultural icon. She pales in comparison to Mars Blackmon as far as cultural significance. That’s primarily because of the commercials I did with Michael Jordan for Nike. I saw “Hamilton” eight times, and I knew right then that if I’d be lucky to get Anthony Ramos to play Mars. The other thing we did to distance my Mars and the new one is I wanted him to be Afro-Rican – black and Puerto Rican. It’s a big difference from Mars in the movie.

Do you have any plans to turn any other movies into a TV show?

I’ll tell you this, it won’t be “Do the Right Thing.”

 

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