“The show is set in the ’90s with people who are in their 40s, so it’s not cute. My [pair] were not sexy,” explains the actor, who is receiving glowing reviews for his work in Ava DuVernay’s Netflix miniseries When They See Us. “The [particular scene] is an exposed place for the man and the woman — particularly for the woman — so [Reese and I] talked a lot about comfort levels and how she saw the scene playing out. Because we have known each other for quite some time, the barriers for that communication were already down.”
Speaking of barriers, Jackson praised DuVernay for cementing her place in an elite class. “I could count on less than the fingers on one hand the kind of director she is compared to the ones I’ve come across. In the fancy French version of it, she’s a true auteur,” he explains. “Working at a global elite level of which there are, at any given time, 10 or 15 on the planet who have the wherewithal that she has.”
He calls working on the story of the Exonerated Five with her at the helm “a phenomenal moment in an actor’s life” because of the trust she gave to her artists. “To be invited into this story and trusted with the responsibility of my brick in this particular wall and to see how this force of a woman operates and navigates space and the space she creates for everyone else to be able to create — it was extremely inspirational.”
A version of this story first appeared in the July 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.