From The New York Times.
A conventional Black novel comes to life, with both comedic and dramatic results, in this scene from “American Fiction.”
The film, written and directed by Cord Jefferson, who adapted Percival Everett’s 2001 novel, “Erasure,” follows the writer Thelonious Ellison (Jeffrey Wright), who goes by Monk, through his frustrations with the kinds of stories he thinks Black writers are allowed to tell.
After one of his more academic books has poor sales, a frustrated Monk decides to pen a more stereotypically Black story under a pseudonym. That book’s title is “My Pafology.” In this scene, as Monk begins to write, his clichéd creations come alive before him: Willy the Wonker and Van Go, played by Keith David and Okieriete Onaodowan.
Narrating the scene, Jefferson said that this sequence doesn’t appear in the novel; rather, the book recreates the entirety of “My Pafology” within its pages. To make Monk’s writing cinematic, Jefferson chose to stage it with Monk at the desk writing, his characters acting out his dialogue around him.
While humor is the intention of the scene, Jefferson said, “Ok and Keith David are such great actors that you have this inclination to take them seriously.” He said that nuance, and the desire to not play the scene too broadly, only makes the scene better.
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