Jeffrey Wright in 'The First Time' Video Series - Rolling Stone
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‘The First Time’: Jeffrey Wright

Actor remembers creating a charity in Sierra Leone, coming face-to-face with Basquiat’s work

Acclaimed actor Jeffrey Wright chatted over video with Rolling Stone for an at-home installment of “The First Time.”

In addition to reminiscing about getting to meet his childhood heroes and working his first summer job, Wright, who released his most recent film All Day and a Night last week, also discusses some of the highlights of his career, including the moment he got to experience Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work for the first time while preparing for the role in artist-director Julian Schnabel 1996 biopic Basquiat.

“I would go to [director] Julian Schnabel’s house and I would just paint all day,” he says. “One day, I came in there, and there had to be 20 Basquiats lined up. They were pieces that the producers of the film owned. They understood that if we did that film right, and if I did my part right, that that would be a sound investment for them.”

Wright also recalled the time he brought geologists to Sierra Leone as part of his company Taia Lion Resources, which aims to create ethical and sustainable mining practices in the country. “I had a desire to see if I could help — you know, you saw kids running around with polio. It’s like, how does a 5-year-old kid have polio 50 years after Jonas Salk? There were all these things that I thought, maybe I could help, I could assist in some way.”

All Day and a Night, a prison drama written and directed by Joe Robert Cole (Black Panther), is now available on Netflix.

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