Grey’s Anatomy may be on hiatus, but Dr. Jackson Avery, ahem actor Jesse Williams, is busier than ever. Currently commentating on the NBA Finals on ABC and taking selfies with the players on a schnazzy Samsung phone, Jesse is flexing his basketball skills courtside at each of the playoff games. But it’s his passion for the larger community of Black men that has him excited during our afternoon phone call.
Question Bridge: Black Males is a transmedia art project turned interactive online community that looks at what it means to be a Black man. Except instead of Jesse or his collective of artists defining who and what Black men are, the definitions are provided by thousands of actual Black men from all walks of life.
Through a series of 1,600 video exchanges with black males of all ages across the United States, Question Bridge seeks to “create a space to explore conversations about black male identity and make new discoveries in the process,” with the ultimate goal of reducing implicit bias in daily life. The project began in 2011 as a video art installation, has grown to include a feature-length film, and the team has now turned to Kickstarter to fund the third part of the project – an interactive website that will let visitors access all 1,600 original videos, see corresponding data, and upload content of their own.
After a fun night of hanging with Jalen Rose, Magic Johnson and Stephen A. Smith at recent game in San Antonio, Jesse hopped on the phone with CocoaFab to talk about the project he executive produced, whether he’s rooting for LeBron or Tony Parker, Grey’s Anatomy teasers and we even got him to weigh in on what’s hot and what’s not! (Hint: Ladies, it’s all about the simply beauty for this fella!)
What’s the goal of Question Bridge‘s new Kickstarter campaign?
“Question Bridge has been a bit of a research project in terms of crowd sourcing. We want to be able to execute these really cool filter options to allow people to do identity mapping and allow people to use Question Bridge as a source to gauge the pulse of how, what and why black men are feeling, thinking, and doing what they are. For example, with our technology and database, during the Trayvon Martin trial or an Obama election, you can track, lets just say, that black men were more likely to identify themselves with these specific terms. Are black men talking about these topics? Is it affecting the way they identify themselves? Is it affecting the way they interpret the way they react to others? Because with all of these videos of black men you can tag them and categorize according to who you are. It’s self-identifying. As Jesse Williams I have a profile on the site and I identify as a husband, as a former teacher, as a student, an actor, a producer, and whatever else. So that’s my profile but whatever videos of others that I watch, I interpret and categorize those. I would say that video is about fatherhood, pregnancy or unemployment. Instead of going through these third parties or people trying to distill and interpret Twitter postings, we are a site that people can get the actual pulse of what’s happening with black men.”
What’s the goal?
“To raise $68,000 in 30 days. We’re not asking for a ton of money. It’s not going to make or break the entire project. It’s going to put on the finishing touches on it and make it sustainable so we can really honor our commitment. We’ve been going out just getting grants and getting private donations but let’s go ahead and throw a line out the public and give them a little taste and give them a little bit of what we’re up to in a way that we haven’t done.”
Do you want CNN or Fox to be able to use Question Bridge as a source for gauging the Black male and his interests?
“Yes. We’ll find and locate their sources. Now on their ticker they’re still sourcing TMZ, they’re still sourcing Twitter. They’re just showing random people’s tweets.”
Other celebrities are supporting this movement, even though it’s not aimed at stars. It’s aimed at the common Black man right?
“We have really positive support from Maxwell and Quincy Jones and I have talked about it at length as well as with Rashida [Jones}. Also, Brandon Marshall is a wide receiver in the NFL for the Chicago bears and he became an acquaintance of mine and he has really become a wonderful leader on the conversation around mental health divulging some of his own struggles with his mental health. He’s proving to be a wonderful, daring, vulnerable leader if you talk about a taboo issue in this kind of a masculine not only being a man but being a black man but being a black man in a physical sport. We really want this to be by everyday folks and we don’t want this to turn into black famous talking heads telling who others what it is. The point is that we all represent ourselves and we all represent our realities.”
In addition to Question Bridge, everyone wants to know what’s going to happen next with Dr. Avery on Grey’s. Any teasers?
“I don’t know what’s going to happen but I’ll be happy to do some speculating. It’s really all about how Christina and Owen end up, they’re actually finally done, maybe they’re finally done for good. For my character, I think you saw him handle things romantically, you saw him handle that professionally taking his work seriously being asked to be surgeon, taking the lead, standing up to his co-workers in a way that you haven’t seen before, telling them no, telling them he disagrees, taking surgeries, taking the lead against Arizona and some other people earning their respect.”
Seems like your character was initially just the new hot doctor but now he has some depth. Is that a reflection of real life in Hollywood?
“I think so. A couple of things come to mind trying to being challenged and being really eager to meet the challenge that goes beyond being pretty, a sex object or whatever and having some depth, having some layers, having some faults. That is absolutely exciting, absolutely makes it worth getting up and going to work every day because it doesn’t have to be that way. I’ve done other jobs that are just about being good looking and that’s no fun.”
What kind of roles are you looking to take on?
“On Grey’s, I get to have a little hero moment where I’m running around jumping on crap in the pouring rain. I’m leaping into the fire. I’m picking shit up and flipping it over. I’m saving babies like that’s a ton of fun to do. I want to do action films. I want to play characters. I want to deal with dysfunctional behavior and relationships and kind of the indie vibe but I also want be that typical dude because that’s who I am and that’s what I enjoy.”
You’re a very opinionated guy. We read and ran your op-ed on Django Unchained. What do you think about a few controversial topics like Kanye’s Yeesuz album. Genius or crazy?
“I love Kanye West and I’m so grateful that he is who he is. I love his music. I think he is super dope and the albums that he makes are some of the most prolific stuff. I think overtime he’ll become more appreciated because how much creativity goes into every second of his music. I love the provocativeness. I love the honesty. I love the flaws. I love the sloppy kind of… the juxtaposition; Kanye is interesting because he manages to balance this hyper-masculine with being totally vulnerable and willing to wear a kilt.”
Spurs versus Heat?
“I’m a Bulls fan. I enjoy the failure of east coast teams like the Knicks and the Heat and the Celtics. I’m just such an appreciator of the game that I’m so happy to be here. But it’s a perfect match between the older, most boring team that has no superstar personality, no big ego. They’re just boring dudes with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Ginobili, no individual leader and then you have the opposite which is the most flashy, over the top in Miami which is the flashiest city and San Antonio be the least flashy city.”
Alright, now is the time for a little summer hot or summer not! Weigh in on these popular girl trends and vote. First up, big, styled hair in the summer?
Neon, body-con dresses in the summer?
“Hot! I’ve never seen one but that sounds good.”
A make-up free face?
“That’s always good. It’s the truth.”
Wearing high heels to the pool?
“That’s kind of like it’s going to look great but that’s not like for the relationship, that’s for the weekend. If you know what I mean.” <Laughs>
Full make-up on the beach?
“You’re not getting in the water. It’s not hot. It’s like [playing] a basketball game in heels and it doesn’t make any sense. If people want to look good and they want to swim….eh, this is the longest answer to hot or not you’re going to get. I mean I guess not.”
Taking tequila shots in the daytime?
“Go for it, who am I to judge?”
Ciara or Rihanna?
“I did Rihanna’s Russian Roulette video so I’ve got to pick Riahnna all day.”