Although he’s just starting to get himself a few leading roles, up until now, Jeffrey Wright always been a supporting actor. And a damn good one too, despite being massively underrated.
The first time he came to my attention was in Shaft, playing the wonderfully arrogant drug dealer Peoples Hernandez. Sporting a completely outrageous but totally believable accent, he stole the show, managing in the process to even outdo Samuel L Jackson – no mean feat.
He went on to play Martin Luther King the next year in Boycott. I haven’t actually seen it, but by all accounts, Wright turns in another sterling performance. What I did see him in though, was the failed Sylvester Stallone project D-Tox. Like Shaft, it was a below average movie, which was lifted greatly by his presence.
Next, I saw him The Manchurian Candidate, holding his own among heavyweights like Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep and John Voight. His portrayal of a jittery, battle-scarred ex-soldier rambling on about conspiracy theories was excellent and delivered with conviction.
A while later, he popped up in Broken Flowers, opposite Bill Murray. Once again showing his propensity for accents, Wright was sublime as the wannabe-detective neighbour. As with Shaft, Wright was once again the highlight of this movie.
In a far more straightforward supporting role, he also appeared in Lady In The Water. It wasn’t a great film, and his character didn’t really stand out, but it was still another opportunity to see him in action.
Finally, the last film I saw him in was Casino Royale, in which he was criminally underused. If it was another actor playing the Felix Leiter part, it probably wouldn’t have seemed such a waste, but in Wright’s case, I couldn’t help but feel he could have contributed so much more.
Regardless, it was good to see him on my screen again, and it gave me another chance to say “Look, it’s Peoples!” Hopefully, there’ll be many more opportunities for me to do this in the future.