×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Brian Tyree Henry Breaks Out Big in Barry Jenkins’ ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’

The final days of filming writer-director Barry Jenkins’ adaptation of James Baldwin’s “If Beale Street Could Talk” were dedicated to moments that foreshadowed its entire plot: Having run into the recently incarcerated Daniel (Brian Tyree Henry) on the streets of Harlem, the struggling artist Fonny (Stephan James) invites his friend back to his apartment for dinner, to the chagrin of his girlfriend Tish (KiKi Layne). Over beers and talk of Fonny’s struggle to gain acceptance in a white society, Daniel offers what Henry calls a “war cry” that was “basically a warning to Fonny that this could be you one day.” Unfortunately, he was right.

HENRY: “Barry was pretty amazing and poetic when he did that scene because I forgot that there were cameras. There are moments where you see Daniel reflecting and smoking a cigarette and I really don’t remember that Barry had set up equipment there. You could not see any of the crew or the director or the ADs. They would literally be outside the room. He would just let us go and have the conversation and it would be so intimate and so personal. Barry didn’t make us run it that many times, but he definitely gave us the space to explore it and just drop in and really have that conversation.

“The weight of it all was pretty amazing; how he let us go and talk about incarceration and what that means to being a black man in America. Even though the film is set in the 1970s, what Daniel is talking about with Fonny could be any black man in this country today. It could be me having a conversation with my nephew. It could be me having a conversation with my best friend. Daniel is the story of so many people of color — of so many black men in this country just experiencing this strife.

“There were moments where it got a little hard for me to continue because the rage would build up and the sorrow would build up because everything he’s saying is the truth. Daniel has just been released from jail. The clothes on his back are pretty much the last thing he wore. I wanted his costume to be the worse for wear. You could see that he didn’t shave and you could see the bags under his eyes; the kind of heaviness of this man. He’s walking on the street because he misses his freedom. He’s walking on the street and he’s seeing the sun. And then, through that, he sees his best friend, too.

“I didn’t really try to over-study the script or over-think it. I just wanted to sit down at this table with my friend and discuss what our lives were like. I didn’t know what their apartment looked like. Even looking at the pieces of artwork that Fonny puts together when we enter? I pretty much improvised that moment because it was, this is what he has. … You can tell they don’t have a lot of money; they’ve got the bathtub near the table.

“We filmed the street scene in the neighborhood I live in in Harlem and the apartment scene in Yonkers. The great part about Harlem is that the essence of Harlem is still very much the same as it was back in the 20th century. It was really cool to see the liveliness of that street and see the afros and the floral prints and the polyester and the stylishness of that time that we possessed as a people being alive on that street. But if you shifted the camera three inches, you’d see the brand new Whole Foods. Let’s not forget about that part.”

More Film

  • Jason Reitman Ghostbusters

    Jason Reitman to Direct Secret 'Ghostbusters' Movie

    Sony Pictures is getting the wheels in motion for the next installment in the “Ghostbusters” franchise, and it knows who it’s going to call to direct: Jason Reitman. Sources tell Variety that Reitman, whose father, Ivan, directed the first two “Ghostbusters” movies, will direct the latest pic in the famous franchise. Related Hollywood Answers: Who Should [...]

  • L.A. Teachers' Strike: Hollywood Studios, Unions

    Hollywood Studios, Unions Support Parents and Educators as L.A. Teachers' Strike Rages

    Hollywood unions and entertainment companies have stepped up to support the 31,000 Los Angeles teachers in the second day of a massive strike that’s affected nearly half a million students. More than 50 SAG-AFTRA members picketed at a Tuesday afternoon rally in the driving rain next to the Hollywood & Highland Center with secretary-treasurer Jane [...]

  • SAMUEL L. JACKSON in Glass. M.

    ‘Glass’ Again Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV advertising attention analytics company iSpot.tv, Universal Pictures claims the top spot in spending for the second week in a row with “Glass.” Ads placed for the superhero thriller had an estimated media value of $9.89 million through Sunday for 1,183 national [...]

  • Danny Glover

    Danny Glover Joins 'Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle' Sequel

    Danny Glover has joined the cast of Sony’s “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” sequel. His role is being kept under wraps, as is the storyline. Glover will star opposite Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, and Karen Gillan, all of whom are set to return. Related Hollywood Answers: Who Should Host the 2019 Oscars? 'Black [...]

  • DJ Khaled Bad Boys

    DJ Khaled Joins 'Bad Boys' Sequel (EXCLUSIVE)

    DJ Khaled has rounded out the cast of Sony’s upcoming “Bad Boys” sequel “Bad Boys for Life,” joining returning stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. Khaled will also join series newcomers Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Charles Melton, Jacob Scipio, and Paola Nuñez. Joe Pantoliano is on board to return as Captain Howard. Related Hollywood Answers: [...]

  • SAMUEL L. JACKSON in Glass. M.

    M. Night Shyamalan's 'Glass' to Break January's Slow Box Office Streak

    No plot twist here: M. Night Shyamalan’s thriller “Glass” will dominate the domestic box office. As this weekend’s lone wide release, “Glass” looks to be the de facto choice for moviegoers during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Now the only question is: how big of an opening can “Glass” pull off? Related Hollywood Answers: [...]

  • Iranian Film Festival NY Review: 'Sheeple'

    Iranian Film Festival New York Review: 'Sheeple'

    The cinema of Iran has often been marked by stylistic qualities of delicacy and restraint. It has found ways to speak loudly with a whisper. But “Sheeple,” the traumatically explosive closing-night selection of 1st Iranian Film Festival New York, amounts to a rather spectacular counterexample. It’s a drama set in the lower depths of society [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content