Born in New Orleans in 1963, Wendell Pierce studied drama at the Juilliard School in New York. Since then he has starred in numerous TV shows including The Wire (2002-08), Treme (2010-13) and Suits (2011-19); his film roles include Selma (2014) and Bad Moms (2016). Earlier this year, Pierce starred alongside Sharon D Clarke in the acclaimed Young Vic production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, which transfers to the West End’s Piccadilly theatre until 4 January 2020.
Lucian Freud, Royal Academy
Right now, because I’m in central London all the time, I happen to pass the Royal Academy every day. I love Lucian Freud’s work, so I’m really looking forward to his exhibit there. What I like most about his art is the way his style is so free-flowing but also slightly askew, so you see something subtextual in it – it’s not just the image that you’re seeing in front of you. His self-portraiture always makes you see how his mind is churning: you see that something is heavy on his mind, and you’re curious to know what it is.
Parting the Waters by Taylor Branch
I am rereading this book, which catalogues and follows the civil rights movement of the 20th century, starting in 1955 with the Montgomery bus boycott. It reminded me of the generation that came before me, and the struggles they had to face just to fully live as American citizens – the indignities and the violence and the danger that their lives were constantly placed in. It really shows the political, social and psychological wherewithal that they had to have to go through that time. It’s something I wanted to explore as I was preparing for the role of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman.
I was hesitant about seeing this, but I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t what I expected it to be. At first you think it’s just about women who dance in strip clubs, but it was much deeper. I think the performance by Jennifer Lopez is actually Oscar-worthy. The film is a great examination of her relationship with Constance Wu’s character: they are two broken people who are trying to find their self-worth and actualise something better in their lives. It’s about the desperation people will go to to find a better path. It was Chekhovian, in a way.
Translations, National Theatre
This is a play I haven’t seen, but I would like to see it while I’m here. It’s by Brian Friel, and it’s about the relationship between the Irish and the English in rural 19th-century Ireland. I briefly met the lead actor, Ciaràn Hinds, during rehearsal while we were both on our lunch break. What he does on film is great, so I’m looking forward to seeing what he does here – you really get to see the versatility of an actor when you see them on stage. It’s at the National, a place I love.
I was made aware of her when I saw a performance by the Alvin Ailey dance company in New York: the dance, along with her music, was just transcendent. Then I got one of her albums and it was so beautiful. There is a track I have been playing over and over: Father, Father, which is my favourite song of hers. I love the composition and how it comes together, and the message of redemption in it. She lives in London, and I would love to hear her live.
David Lammy MP
As the whole political debate here is going on, being an expat from America – going through its own tumultuous political fray – I look for singular voices of clarity, and Mr Lammy seems to be that for me. The thing that brought him to my attention was his call to action after the fire at Grenfell Tower, looking into safety and taking care of families and victims. He seems to be a man of the people, who understands that the role of a public servant is to serve the public, and not for any sort of personal gain. I find that very admirable.
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