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I know slave movies aren’t everyone’s cup of tea and there have been plenty of critics, mostly black, of Steve McQueen’s latest, award-winning effort, 12 Years A Slave. But personally, that film affected me in a profound way. I remember leaving the theater with a headache because I thought so much and cried so hard.

I attribute my reaction to the film to the astounding effort the cast and crew put into this project. You could sense just how serious it was to these people long before there were cast interviews and press junkets. A recent Arsenio Hall interview with Michael K. Williams confirmed what I already knew to be true.

Williams has a smaller part earlier on in the film as one of the free men captured with whom Solomon, (Chiwetel Ejiofor), first meets on the slave ship.

Williams described a particularly emotional scene that caused him to not only break down but lose himself.

There was a scene unfortunately it didn’t make the film…We were shooting this scene where my character Roberts is being dragged to the slave ship and he was revolting, he was frailing, he was going crazy. Around the fifth time that we shot it, Steve yelled cut and something came over me I don’t know what it was…I fell to the ground, I couldn’t stop crying and screaming…I couldn’t even get up off the floor. It was surreal

The stunt coordinator he got on the floor with me, white man and he cradled me in his arms, and he rocked me and he kept saying, ‘It’s okay Mike let it out, let it out.’ And I screamed at the top of lungs, for what must’ve seemed like 15, 20 minutes. Like a cloud passed over me and I got up..I was like okay let’s go. I think what happened to me was that I was given a glimpse into what out ancestors must’ve went through.

You can watch the clip of this conversation that brought Arsenio to tears in the video below. 


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