A Jazzman’s Blues has been 17 years in the making for Tyler Perry and now that it’s here, the writer, director and producer is ready for the world to witness what he has dubbed his passion project.
“I was a little sad last week because I realized it’s done,” said Perry said in a recent chat that he and the cast of the Netflix did with Shadow and Act. “You know, I’d held on to it for so long. It’s like, I know what a parent feels like when that kid goes off to college now and the nest is empty. I’ve held it and protected it for the right time until this moment so I’m excited for people to see it, but also a little sad because I held on to it for so long.”
The film, according to its description, is “a tale of forbidden love and family drama [that] unravels 40 years of secrets and lies against a soundtrack of juke-joint blues in the Deep South.” Perry said the current climate of the nation is what led him to release the project at this moment.
“Just watching what’s happening in America where there are certain political figures who want to reimagine the history of Black people in America that want to ban certain books, that don’t want people to know how bad slavery was, or the atrocities, or how much we built America on our backs,” the Madea creator explained.
"I wanted this movie to come out and maybe raise the curiosity for people to go back and see how bad Jim Crow was," he added.
“How bad it was for a lot of us so that you and I could sit here and have the lives that we do,” the multihyphenate continued.
A Jazzman’s Blues introduces Solea Pfeiffer who portrays Leanne, a character she says afforded her the opportunity to essentially play herself.
“In the very literal sense, just being, like, a racially ambiguous person, usually when I am cast in roles, what my experience thus far is pretty general, my race is never specific, and usually I’m playing a role that was previously played by a white woman or something like that,” said Pfeiffer.
"The breakdown of the character was specifically who I am and what I look like, and to be able to take up space in a story as myself," she continued.
“Where someone wrote this with the intention of having someone just like me play the role, it’s very freeing because you’re not wondering if you are enough of this or enough of that… you just are. I got to learn a lot about the history of mixed-race people in America and the history of passing, and them throughout the past 100, 200 years, and what that really means,” Pfeiffer said. “Having your own personal history for the first time in your life, it gives you a lot of agency and I’m really grateful for what all that has given me because I carry it in me like every day of my life.”
Pfeiffer's co-star Joshua Boone breathes life into Bayou, who is initially soft-spoken, but throughout his journey of life and love, learns not to take knocks from anybody.
“He goes from being a soft-spoken, quiet musician, who doesn’t get the opportunity to have that on display. [Someone] who gives love and deserves to receive love and finds that through his relationship with Leanne and grows into a human when that love is stripped away,” said Boone.
"He's someone who finds his own way, finds his own steps, and is able to make it both in an industry of music and also continue to find a means to give that love and create an outlet for that love," Boone continued.
Speaking of music, Amirah Vann’s character Hattie Mae, aka Bayou’s mother, shares the same love of music with her son. While A Jazzman’s Blues is quite the love story, and it has the music to match.
“I just thought she was so beautifully complex,” said Vann. “I think she just loves her children so much, she loves singing, she loves her community,” she continued.
Vann says her favorite musical number from the film was "Rocks in My Bed."
“I just loved that because you know, not only does the song itself, musically, do something that’s very cathartic, but also the scene. Now that I’m remembering the day [we filmed it], it actually started pouring and outside and we were all like, ‘Uh oh,’ but then Tyler was like this is gorgeous and so the rain is pouring down and Hattie Mae is sitting there and it’s so simple and it’s so beautiful. Every scene in that juke joint was a special place for that community to be themselves.”
A Jazzman’s Blues is now available for streaming on Netflix.