'Big Cigar' Exclusive: Showrunner Janine Sherman Barrois Says André Holland Was "The Only Choice" To

'Big Cigar' Exclusive: Showrunner Janine Sherman Barrois Says André Holland Was "The Only Choice" To

Friday, June 14, Apple TV+ streamed the season finale for their six-episode Black Panther caper The Big Cigar and we were locked in for every minute.


Source: Courtesy / Apple TV+

BOSSIP Sr. Content Director chatted with series executive producer, writer and showrunner Janine Sherman Barrois who told us she's been dreaming of bringing these series to life since 2018, when she was writing and running CLAWS and got her hands on the Playboy article by Joshuah Bearman which inspired the series. With that said, Sherman Barrois says The Big Cigar could never have happened without it's leading man, André Holland.

"Andre, even when he's not speaking, he just kills it," Sherman Barrois told BOSSIP. "When he believes the feds are next door and he's pounding on the wall - knowing that they're there. When he thinks his apartment is being bugged, when you see his conflict between him and Bobby Seale, him and Eldridge Cleaver and then the love he had with his father. You get to see a young boy asking his dad for help. I don't think this project would have happened unless we got Andre. I think if we didn't get Andre we probably would not have made the piece because he was the only choice."

The Big Cigar episodic stillsSource: Courtesy / Apple TV+

"He is one of the greatest actors of our time. He is a tour de force. He gave a performance like nobody's business. He embodied him and came to set really in character. I think when you see all the layers and all the nuance. - he plays the paranoia, the feeling that Huey must have had having Cointelpro tactics come after him daily; he plays the how do you hand over your legacy to the women of the party when you know you're going to be an exile and you may never come back; he plays the tough figure. You see him fall to addiction. You see his heroism and his idealism. You see a playful side, when he gets to Hollywood you see him go see Shaft."

Like every episode of The Big Cigar, the season finale is tightly packed with motion, from the simmering tension between Newton and Bert Schneider (the Hollywood producer who hatched the idea to use a made-up film production help Newton travel to Cuba to escape charges that had been pinned on him for the murder of a teenage sex worker) to the beautiful Black love story between Newton and Gwen Fontaine. The beautifully executed wedding that happens in the final episode was one of our favorite moments.

The Big Cigar episodic stillsSource: Courtesy / Apple TV+

"We wanted the wedding scene to really be a long monologue about love and about these two people wrestling with, 'Are you ready for commitment? I'm ready for commitment,'" Sherman Barrois told BOSSIP. "Or her first thinking that he's not serious, he doesn't get on his knee, he doesn't have a ring and so I think this scene is so effective, you can feel the sweat, you feel the isolation, you feel the tension of any moment they could come into the room and the federales could bust down the door, the feds could be right behind the. These two people took this moment to love each other and to have an intimacy."

"Tiffany Johnson who's an incredible director, she's just a force and it was such a pleasure to have her bring her brilliance to the final two episodes. The way she shot it, it's this vast big room, but you felt very intimate between Huey and Gwen. You felt like they were willing to die at that moment for each other and you felt that love and then when she shot the wedding itself. it's really just on them. Although Bert and Steve are in their room it really wasn't about what do they think of the wedding, it's about what do these to iconic figures think of each other at that moment and and then for them to sort of have like this honeymoon like kind of laying in the pews only to be woken up by the warning, the pirate coming and saying, 'They're after us. Let's go!"

The Big Cigar episodic stillsSource: Courtesy / Apple TV+

Sherman Barrois also emphasized the importance of continuing to educate ourselves about the history of Huey P. Newton and the Black Panther Party and how The Big Cigar simply serves as a small slice of life in a much larger picture.

"I think that everyone knows that this is not the full Panther story," Sherman Barrois told BOSSIP. "This is literally about his escape and there were scenes done to contextualize the Panthers. A lot of people don't know that Huey and Bobby Seale made a decision to pick up arms to police the police as a way to minimize police aggression toward Black people. They don't know about the turn toward social programs and how that really made Huey targeted by Hoover and the FBI. I think in succession, as this baton is passed on to the next person who does a larger piece, I think this could be a six-year show, where you tell all of the relationships in the Panther party.  I think if  you're doing a caper and you're doing a slice of time that people understand that you can't necessarily tell every single beat of a man's life. He is an epic figure, he's an icon and he comes with all of that which is bestowed upon icons, you know Black, white, gray - all of those things. We shined a light on it, but it's not the full story."

If you pay close attention to the very end of The Big Cigar, Sherman Barrois described there are photos that continue to tell the story - including of how Newton eventually married his widow Fredrika Newton, who continues to carry on the Panther legacy to this day.

"The most important thing for us, was to have Fredrika Newton watch it and be moved by the show," Sherman Barrois told BOSSIP. "I say to anyone who wants to get involved, to go to the Huey P Newton Foundation, look at the work that Fredrika Newton's doing. They're continuing build and make sure his legacy is truly never forgotten. Kids of all ages continue to fight for equity in the world. I just want people to know that because a lot of people don't know that his foundation and his museum on the Black Panthers is in Oakland and and if you're interested from watching this piece, get involved!"

All six episodes of The Big Cigar are streaming on Apple TV+ now

via: https://bossip.com/2664794/big-cigar-janine-sherman-barrois-andre-holland/

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