Rustin Interview: George C. Wolfe On Combating's Erasure & Celebrating Bayard Rustin


Rustin Interview: George C. Wolfe On Combating’s Erasure & Celebrating Bayard Rustin

Rustin director George C. Wolfe discusses celebrating history to combat erasure, telling Bayard Rustin’s story, and what he hopes audiences take away.


  • Rustin is a biopic about Bayard Rustin, a freedom fighter who organized the 1963 March on Washington, making it a perfect time to celebrate his legacy.
  • Colman Domingo’s performance in Rustin is Oscar-worthy, as he brings humanity, vulnerability, and heart to the role of Bayard Rustin.
  • Rustin showcases Bayard Rustin’s brilliance and organizational skills, demonstrating how he was able to mobilize people without the use of technology or cell phones. His legacy remains relevant today in terms of organization and commitment to social causes.

Rustin follows Bayard Rustin, a powerful freedom fighter who spent his life fighting for civil rights through non-violence, a lesson he helped pass on to Martin Luther King Jr. The movie follows his journey to organize the 1963 March on Washington, which changed the course of the Civil Rights movement. The movie also examines the challenges he faced, including not only racism but also homophobia.

Rustin is directed by George C. Wolfe. The movie was co-written by Julian Breece and Dustin Lance Black, based on a story by Julian Breece. Rustin stars Colman Domingo, Chris Rock, Jeffrey Wright, Audra McDonald, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph.

Related: Rustin Ending Explained

Screen Rant interviewed director George C. Wolfe about his new Netflix biopic, Rustin. He explained why this is the right time to tell Bayard Rustin’s story and what people can learn from it today to apply to the political climate in this country. Wolfe also shared what Domingo brought to the role of Rustin and how Rustin was able to rally so many people.

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George C. Wolfe Talks Rustin

Screen Rant: Mr. Wolfe, this film is incredible. Thank you so much for shining a light on Bayard Rustin, which I think is so much deserved. He is really a beacon of power and inspiration. Why was now the right time for a Bayard Rustin movie, for him to come out of the shadows of history?

George C. Wolfe: It should have happened many years ago, but it didn’t. But it’s happening now, and I think it’s sort of, in many respects, it’s the perfect time. It’s the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington. I think there are many people are trying to do interesting things with history, like erase it.

So, instead of yelling and screaming, in response to that, you celebrate somebody who was lost and you lift him up, and you put a light on him and you do a movie about him. And you celebrate his complexity, and his depth, and his intelligence, and his ferocity, and his belief in America. And that’s the answer. That’s the answer to erasing history, is to celebrate it.

Absolutely. I couldn’t agree with you more. I think Colman Domingo is phenomenal. I feel like it’s an Oscar-worthy performance. What did he bring to the role that wasn’t on the page?

George C. Wolfe: Well, he brought his, what I think every good actor, great actor, important actor brings, he brought his humanity, he brought his vulnerability, and he brought his heart. And I think the whole cast did that as well.

There’s an image at the very beginning, and I really feel ashamed that I don’t… The young woman, who when the ketchup drops down her face, I went over to her and I was explaining to her what was going to happen and I said, “I want to make sure that you’re safe.” And she said, “Do whatever you can. This is too important.” And I love that this woman, who doesn’t have a line, but she’s the first face we see, was that committed, had gave that much heart, and was willing to sacrifice whatever she needed to sacrifice to help tell this story.

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Can you talk about recreating that March scene and how Bayard Rustin did this without a cell phone or technology to mobilize all these people to this march?

George C. Wolfe: Well, because he had one of those brilliant organizational brains. People who frequently weren’t fans of his, or who questioned him because of his homosexuality, or questioned him because he was a former communist and all this sort of stuff, acknowledged that he had a brilliant, brilliant organizational mind.

And he surrounded himself with kids who were fearless and who he could inspire and push and challenge, and they rose to the occasion. And in eight weeks time, they pulled together this phenomenal event. And it takes a man with that sense of detail and that sense of commitment and determination. And I want to go back to that specificity of thought, going over every single detail and empowering them to do the same. He’s a phenomenal force. He was a phenomenal force, is a phenomenal force.

Couldn’t agree with you more. Now, in what ways do you think Bayard Rustin’s legacy is relevant and impactful in today’s social and political climate?

George C. Wolfe: He’s a role model, and I don’t mean that in, “He’s a role model.” I mean that therefore, that’s his sense of organization, his sense of commitment. He was a freedom writer before, back in 1947. He went to prison because he was a conscientious objector and didn’t believe in fighting during World War II. He protested against the Japanese. In other words, he… The Japanese being interned. He found himself in so many different causes. It needn’t look like him to be about him. And I think we need to reinvest in that phenomenon.

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Well, look, sir, thank you so much for spreading a light on this, or shining a light on this. And I just listened to the Elizabethan Songs and Negro Spirituals last night, and what a tremendous voice the man had as well. So, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it.

George C. Wolfe: I can’t believe you listened to that, y’all. It’s amazing, isn’t it?

About Rustin

Colman Domingo in Rustin

Activist Bayard Rustin faces racism and homophobia as he helps change the course of Civil Rights history by orchestrating the 1963 March on Washington. Watch all you want. Colman Domingo leads this George C. Wolfe-directed historical drama co-starring Aml Ameen, Glynn Turman, and Chris Rock.

Check out our other Rustin interview with star Colman Domingo.

Rustin is currently available to stream on Netflix.

Source: Screen Rant Plus

  • Rustin Netflix 2023 Movie Poster Rustin Release Date: 2023-11-03 Director: George C. Wolfe Cast: Chris Rock, Glynn Turman, Aml Ameen, CCH Pounder, Michael Potts, Colman Domingo, Jeffrey Wright, Audra McDonald Rating: PG-13 Runtime: 106 Minutes Genres: Biography, Drama Writers: Julian Breece, Dustin Lance Black Story By: Julian Breece Studio(s): Higher Ground Productions Distributor(s): Netflix

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