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Episode 09 - Clemency

With Guests: Alfre Woodard & Chinonye Chukwu

Star Alfre Woodard and director Chinonye Chukwu discuss their powerful new drama, the strength involved in creating such an emotional masterpiece, and the preparation and process of developing the characters and story, leaving inspiration for aspiring actors and filmmakers.

Alfre Woodard joins Hollywood Unscripted as the first guest of this episode. She starts off by revealing why she says “yes” to a role (1:09). She talks about the prisons she visited with Chinonye Chukwu in preparation to play the role of Bernadine (2:54). She explains how an actor’s body is their instrument and that they are trained to play the notes of their emotions. (4:14)

Alfre discusses her character’s fractured relationship with her husband (5:55), why her profession put the relationship in that position (7:10) and how Bernadine is emotional in a different way than an artist would be (8:20).

She goes further into the actors’ preparation for their roles, reveals the affect it had on her (12:32), describes how the actors were able to show up ready to work together (13:45), and how emotion is not something to be afraid of (14:41).

Chinonye Chukwu, writer and director of Clemency, then joins Hollywood Unscripted (17:46) and describes how the process of writing this film led her to uproot her life in order to deepen her research (18:04). She discusses choosing to write the story from the perspective of the prison warden (20:18) and talks about teaching her college filmmaking curriculum in a women’s prison (20:37).

She recalls how Alfre came aboard the project (21:51) and then talks about working with the Clemency team - cinematographer Eric Branco (23:29); editor Phyllis Housen (24:24); actors Danielle Brooks (24:28), Richard Schiff (26:08), and Wendell Pierce (26:29); and producer Bronwyn Cornelius (27:17).

Chinoye tells how changes to the script were made to focus on Bernadine’s story (27:57). She describes how it feels to have a financially viable film (29:01) and her next steps (30:02).

Finally, she discusses how she chose to begin and end (31:26) the film, the ability to bring joy to a heavy set (33:03), and her advice to aspiring filmmakers (34:28).