Black Actors Read Steve Bannon’s Shakespeare-Meets-L.A. Riots Screenplay

By Sameer Rao May 02, 2017

Before he joined forces with Donald Trump or led Breitbart Media, White supremacist presidential advisor Steve Bannon tried to make it in showbusiness with a hip-hop musical adaptation of William Shakespeare’s "Coriolanus" set during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. "The Thing I Am" was never turned into a movie, but video news outlet NowThis secured the manuscript from Bannon’s co-writer Julia Jones and brought it to life with a predominantly Black group of actors—one of whom thinks Bannon’s screenplay sheds light on how he and Trump view Black communities.

"I do think he was trying to understand race relations and take this overseer look of ‘Here’s what you’re not seeing,’" Gary Anthony Williams ("Pig Goat Banana Cricket"), one of the participating actors, told The Washington Post yesterday (May 1). "I think he thought he had a greater understanding than the people who were going through what they were going through. Now, whether he had the tools to do that or not is open to everyone’s interpretation. My answer would be no, spelled in pretty large letters, with a very curly font. Again, I think Steve Bannon thought he had figured out Black people, much in the way of Trump: ‘Carnage! Chicago is carnage!…American carnage! That I have the answer. That if you could listen to me, this can fix that.’"

Williams reads the part of Coriolanus, who Shakespeare envisioned as a vengeance-seeking Roman military general with political ambitions. "Seeing how he was trying to mix Shakespeare with some street language—when you have the words ‘Chill, mama,’ trying to be followed by some iambic pentameter, it’s magic coming out of your mouth," Williams, who previously acted with the Georgia Shakespeare Festival, said about the dialogue. "I didn’t say good magic," he adds.

Other Black thespians featured in the table read (and listed in the video above) include Williams’ "The Boondocks" co-star Cedric Yarbrough ("Speechless") as Agrippa, Nyima Funk ("Son of Zorn") as Volumnia, Daniele Gaither ("The Thundermans") as Virgilia and Ishmel Sahid ("Comedy Bang! Bang!) as Lartius. Watch them read "The Thing I Am" while fighting laughter and bewilderment in the video below: