By Stephanie Ferrarie AB '18
Reginald Hudlin AB '83 is in production with upcoming Disney+ feature, Safety, a drama based on the life of football player Ray McFirathbey. A writer, producer, and director, Hudlin has been nominated for an Academy Award and was the President of BET. Hudlin is also a Harvardwood Advisory Board member.
Q. What was your family life like growing up?
A. I grew up in East St. Louis, Illinois. There’s St. Louis, Missouri, then the Mississippi River, then it’s East St. Louis, Illinois which is a small town where I grew up. My dad was an insurance agent. My mother was an educator. I had two older brothers. You know, it was a small town, virtually all black, economically very depressed, culturally very rich. I had a wonderful childhood.
Q. How did you become interested in film?
A. We come from a family of story-tellers. All my uncles—I had five uncles on my dad’s side-- they all had different careers: some were military, some were businessmen, some were academics. We would get together at family gatherings and they’d tell stories and argue about politics.
Me and my friends, in addition to playing baseball and football, we would play “laugh in,” basically you would stand there and try to make the other people laugh, and you couldn’t sit down until you made the other people laugh and they would have to take your place. It’s a brutal comedy training process, because they’re trying hard not to laugh so you've got to overcome their willpower.
And what we found out after I was an adult, after I had entered the movie business, I actually had an ancestor, Richard Hudlin, who was a filmmaker at the beginning of the 20th century who made movies on the same mission as me and my brother would a century later. We just wanted to show a nuanced and realistic portrayal of black life.Read more
By Brittany Turner AB '10
Reginald Hudlin AB '83 is a television and film writer, director, and producer whose film MARSHALL, about the first African-American supreme court justice, premieres in theaters October 13. His Harvard VES thesis film, House Party, was the basis for the breakout teen comedy that launched his career in the 1990s. Since then, Hudlin has directed and produced films like BOOMERANG, BEBE’S KIDS, and DJANGO UNCHAINED, and TV shows like THE BERNIE MAC SHOW, as well as a number of live awards specials and events. For three years, he served as President of BET Entertainment, overseeing the successful AMERICAN GANGSTER series, among others. Hudlin is also a lifelong comic book lover, and wrote many of the BLACK PANTHER series for Marvel Comics, as well as an award-winning run of SPIDER MAN.
Q. What made you want to get involved with MARSHALL and tell this story in particular?
A. I was always a Thurgood Marshall fan, always felt that he was one of the most underrated heroes in American history. I thought this would make an especially good movie because it’s a part of his life that we don’t know—we know about him as a judge, and fighting Brown vs. Board of Education—but this is a case that’s very lurid—sex, murder, mayhem, racial tension—and the audience doesn’t know the outcome. It had the makings of a really good legal thriller.Read more
Reginald Hudlin '83 (Writer, Director, Producer, & Former President of Entertainment, BET)
By Dayna Wilkinson
Growing up in East St. Louis, IL, Reginald Hudlin '83 found his story-telling voice early. "I wanted to do a parody of THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN called The Six Dollar and Forty-Nine Cent Man,” he says. "My aspirations weren’t necessarily high art at that time, I just wanted to do something funny and cool.”
He and his brothers were major comic book collectors and movie buffs. "Even before the term "independent” was really popular, I was always aware of other types of movies,” Reginald says. "We loved martial arts, so we were watching movies by Kurosawa long before most folks in the Midwest knew who he was.”
"I wasn’t even in high school, and I kept telling my brother Warrington, who was studying film in college, my film ideas. Then one Christmas he gave me a notebook with blank pages and said, ‘Here, write down your ideas in this.’”Read more