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Interview: Jovan Adepo and Saniyya Sidney on FENCES

One of the biggest movies of last year, Fences brought home an Academy Award for actress Viola Davis. Directed by and starring Denzel Washington, the film is receiving much acclaim for its lead performances. The film features equally skilled work from its supporting players. Newcomer Jovan Adepo stars as Cory, son to Washington and Davis’ Troy and Rose. The star previously known for his work on The Leftovers is tasked with going up against the two heavyweights in emotional scenes throughout the film. Playing Troy’s daughter Raynell is ten-year-old Saniyya Sidney. Sidney also appeared in last year’s hugely successful Hidden Figures, playing the daughter of Taraji P. Henson. We spoke with the two actors about their roles in the film and working across from Washington and Davis.

 

Scene Creek: You have some really heavy scenes across from both Viola Davis and Denzel in this film. The scene that seems to be standing out the most for many people is the scene where Denzel has the “Who says I’m supposed to like you?” speech. What is it like to have that performed right in front of you?

JA: It definitely feels real. You’re talking about one of the great actors of our time, so everything that your character is feeling and that he’s supposed to feel – it’s only an asset to have an actor like Denzel as your scene partner because he’s going to do everything in his power to make sure that the emotions that are involved in the scene are genuine. The intensity, the anxiety that you’re feeling from Cory, me as Cory felt it too.

SC: What is it like to work with him as a director?

JA: He’s brilliant. The effort for him – at least for the rest of the actors on set – seemed to be seamless. There wasn’t a moment when he was switching his director’s hat for his actor’s hat. He could jump in and out and still be very much in tune with you and in tune with the element of the scene. It was definitely a treat to witness it but also a great reward to experience it with him first hand.

SC: Can you talk about the working in such an intimate environment?

JA: I think it’s an advantage for an actor, especially for actors who are just starting. I think it’s easy for actors to be exposed to a lot of bells and whistles and tricks and upside-down camera shots and all these beauty shots. With this film, we go back to the core and focus on technique and the actor and the story. That’s not to knock down those types of films, I love big films as well, they’re very entertaining, but this is definitely a film that’s trying to tell a specific story and bring the audience into these people’s lives. I think Viola said it best after she won one of her many awards, she said, “This is a film that is just about people. You don’t always have to be super, you just have to be.”

SC: You gave such a great performance on the second season of The Leftovers as Michael Murphy. Will you be back for the new season? If so, what can we expect?

JA: I will be involved in the last season. The Murphy family will be back. The only thing that I’m able to say without Damon Lindelof coming for my head is that he did his best to answer the questions that the loyal fans have been wondering about the the departed. You will get some sort of answer or explanation for what happened.

 

SC: Tell me about the first time you met Denzel Washington.

Saniyya Sidney: It was awesome. He’s so nice. The first time I met him he was smiling. He always smiles. He’s just such a funny person and I love him so much.

SC: You don’t actually have any scenes with Denzel Washington since you come into the film later on. What was it like working with the other actors?

SS: They were all just such an inspiration. I was just so honored to be able to work with such awesome actors and actresses. Everybody was so nice. It was the best thing you can ask for. I did not have scenes with Mr. Washington but he directed, so it was like we kind of had scenes together, just behind the camera.

SC: What did Mr. Washington teach you?

SS: Well he always spoke to us in a way, which made you think, “Wow, this man knows a lot!” He’s been around a long time.

SC: What was it like to go to the Oscars? Was it fun or was it overwhelming?

SS: It was both of those things. I had so many emotions. I was crying inside. I was happy. I was just so thankful and grateful for the experience. For a long time, I had been praying to go to the Oscars, so it was such an honor to go.

SC: Who was the coolest person you got to meet at the award shows?

SS: The coolest people I got to meet with Alex Hibbert and Jaden Piner from Moonlight.

SC: They kind of went through a similar experience as you did this year.

SS: Yes! I met them the first time when The Hollywood Reporter took pictures of the Oscar kids. They were just as excited as I was. They were so funny.

SC: What was it like working on American Horror Story?

SS: It was so fun. Getting to put on all the fake blood every day was the best thing you could ever ask for. This might sound weird, so get ready, but the blood tastes awesome.

SC: What does it taste like?

SS: It tastes like sugar. The first time we used it I saw Sarah Paulson put the blood on her banana. I was like, “What are you doing?!” and she was like, “Oh it’s really good. You should try it.” So I tried it and I loved it. I ate the blood every day.

SC: Was it every scary working on the show?

SS: At times it was. The time I was really scared was when they did a shot of me looking down into the basement and it was completely dark. That kind of scared me, but nothing else really. It was mostly just Cuba [Gooding Jr.] yelling at everything. I was like, “Oh damn, did he say something again?!” It was so fun. I had the time of my life. I was so proud of myself because I watched it all and I wasn’t really scared. The only time I was really scared was when Evan Peters died.

 

Fences is now available to own on Blu-Ray and DVD.

Matt Hoffman

Matthew Hoffman is a Toronto-based cinephile who especially enjoys French films and actresses over the age of 50; including but not limited to: Isabelle Huppert, Meryl Streep, and Jacki Weaver.