‘American Fiction’ director Cord Jefferson stresses the importance of wide-ranging Black experiences after Oscar win

The writer-director talked about how the Black community is “just as nuanced and complex and diverse as any other group of people” while speaking to reporters backstage. 

“American Fiction” director Cord Jefferson opened up about the significance of telling diverse Black stories after winning his first Oscar at the 2024 Academy Awards on Sunday. 

The writer-director, who won the Academy Award for best adapted screenplay for “American Fiction,” stressed how the Black community is “just as nuanced and complex and diverse as any other group of people” while speaking to reporters backstage. 

“Showing these kinds of people who aren’t normally shown on the big screen, that’s important to me,” Jefferson said about his film. “I think it’s important to show diversity within diversity. I mean, it’s sort of like people assume that diversity means one thing, and you have one Black guy in a room and that gives you the totality of the Black experience.”

Writer/director Cord Jefferson poses backstage with the Oscar he won for best adapted screenplay during the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday. (Photo by Michael Baker / ©A.M.P.A.S.)

He continued, “To me, it’s important to recognize that there is no — no one Black person contains the totality of the Black experience; that you have people in the projects, of course; you had people who were slaves, of course. But, between the pole over here of the slave, you have the pole of being president of the United States. That’s part of the Black experience in this country. You have millions of stories in between those two poles to tell.”

Jefferson wrote and directed “American Fiction,” a dark comedy about a Black writer (Jeffrey Wright) who decides to write a stereotypically Black novel after becoming exasperated with the racist systems and stereotypes placed upon him. Along the way, he solidifies his relationship with his family, including his brother (Sterling K. Brown), and redefines what Blackness and Black success mean to him. 

Jefferson’s Academy Award win was the only Oscar of the night for “American Fiction,” which is based on the 2001 novel “Erasure” by Percival Everett. The film was nominated for five awards, including best picture, best actor for Jeffrey Wright, best supporting actor for Sterling K. Brown, and best original score. 

Wright lost out to Cillian Murphy, who won for his performance as J. Robert Oppenheimer, in “Oppenheimer,” while Brown lost to Robert Downey Jr., who took home the Oscar for his role in “Oppenheimer.” Jefferson made sure to thank Wright and Brown, along with the rest of the “American Fiction” cast, during his acceptance speech. 

“Thank you all who worked on this movie for trusting a 40-year-old Black guy who has never directed anything before,” Jefferson said. “It has changed my life. I love you all. Thank you so much.”

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