For LaTanya Richardson Jackson and Samuel L. Jackson, the current Broadway revival of “The Piano Lesson” is a family affair.
The couple, who have been married for more than 41 years, are playing on opposite sides of the table, with Samuel L. Jackson tackling the onstage role of Doaker Charles and LaTanya Richardson Jackson helming the production in her Broadway directorial debut.
“To be a part of a production that my wife directed, to be part of her Broadway directorial debut, is important because of the goals that we set for ourselves a long time ago when we first met,” Samuel L. Jackson tells Paul Wontorek in the latest episode of “The Broadway Show with Tamsen Fadal.”
Currently in previews at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, “The Piano Lesson” is the fourth play in Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle. The Pulitzer Prize-winning drama tells the story of a family’s battle between a beloved heirloom and their own history.
“There should always be an August Wilson play on Broadway somewhere,” Samuel L. Jackson said.
He also shared how meaningful it is to have John David Washington — in his Broadway debut — playing the role of Boy Willie, saying that he’s “like one of our kids.” Samuel L. Jackson said he and his wife have nurtured Washington (who happens to be the son of Denzel Washington) throughout his life. Samuel L. Jackson told Wontorek it’s significant to “be here to support him in this particular endeavor and to help him find his stage legs in one of the most difficult roles he could have chosen to start.”
LaTanya Richardson Jackson, meanwhile, told Wontorek she thinks she prefers to be on the other side of the table. She, too, mentioned the fact that this production is a dream for her and her husband.
“It’s the culmination of something that I know has been in the zeitgeist for me forever,” she told Wontorek.
In addition to directing on Broadway for the first time, with this production, LaTanya Richardson Jackson becomes the first woman to direct an August Wilson play on Broadway. This also happens to be the first-ever Broadway revival of “The Piano Lesson,” which originally opened in 1990.
“It’s always special any time you attempt an August Wilson play,” LaTanya Richardson Jackson said.
“I’m trying to reimagine it because I’m a woman and I’m looking at things differently than how we’ve looked at it before.”
Also featured in the episode are John David Washington with Danielle Brooks, who plays the role of Berniece. Both reflect on tackling the work of Wilson, which Brooks says is “harder than Shakespeare.”
“I think people will relate because we all have family,” Brooks said.
“The Piano Lesson” officially opens at Broadway’s Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Oct. 13.
“The Broadway Show with Tamsen Fadal” airs on weekends. Check your local listings for air time and channel.