Jeffrey Wright speaks on sobering Netflix film ‘All Day and a Night’

Wright says that the black experience in the U.S. is 'in some ways training for a case of extreme difficulty that we're facing now.'


Netflix has finally unveiled its sobering drama, All Day and a Night, starring Jeffrey Wright, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Ashton Sanders. 

Written and directed by Black Panther co-writer Joe Robert Cole, the sobering film examines the brutal reality faced by so many Black men navigating an existence where incarceration is practically promised.

As soft-spoken Jahkor Abraham Lincoln (Sanders) struggles to keep his dream of rapping alive amidst a gang war in Oakland, his ill-fated life and real-world responsibilities drive him further and further across the line of right and wrong with tragic consequences. Landing in prison beside his father, J.D. (Wright) whom he never wanted to be like, Jahkor embarks on an unlikely journey of self-discovery, exploring the events that unite them, in hopes of helping his newborn son break a cycle that feels unavoidable.

The powerful film is produced by Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson (The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story), and Jared Ian Goldman (Ingrid Goes West).

READ MORE: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Jeffrey Wright star in ‘All Day and a Night’

theGrio caught up with the Jeffrey Wright to discuss how the film sheds light on the longstanding tradition of Black folks having to improvise their way through insurmountable circumstances.

“Right now, as we in this country experience this pandemic and we are in a pandemic period, s**t happens and this is big and it’s happening,” says Wright. “It’s very clear that there are certain people who had extreme difficulty adapting and improvising toward better outcomes for themselves, which really centers on survival. And so having had experiences that folks have been made to face on their own without external systemic support and despite external systemic pressures, is in some ways training for a case of extreme difficulty that we’re facing now.”

The actor, who also stars in HBO’s hit Westworld, recalled a conversation he had with a friend who works with inmates and how some formerly incarcerated people are more equipped to deal with the turbulent times we’re facing.

“He spoke to several formerly incarcerated folks about social distancing, about ways in which they are using the experiences that they had inside a cell to help them get through this period in which we’re being asked to distance ourselves socially. In many cases, given room to roam much greater than a prison cell,” he explains.

“The ways in which they improvise contact with people through embracing photographs and things like that They have gone through the unfortunate training of being able to perhaps manage a situation like this better,” he continues. “…This ability to improvise, even in the face of deep challenges, I think is one that needs to be brought up. It needs to be celebrated and needs to be employed urgently right now.”

READ MORE: ‘Native Son’ director, Rashid Johnson, on the importance of Black voices in Hollywood

The father-and-son duo Wright and Sanders portray in All Day and a Night employ the same improvisation skills to navigate the streets and the prison they eventually wind up in together.

“As for the guys in our film, yes, they are improvising,” Wright says. “They are trying to adapt. Unfortunately, the tools that they find available to them and the windows through which they can see opportunity are not necessarily ones that will lead them toward the most constructive outcomes. That becomes a source of bitterness and frustration and anger and self-destruction for them. And that’s one of the ways in which that cycles through a family.” 

All Day and a Night is streaming now on Netflix.