For 27 years, Tyler Perry has carried the screenplay for A Jazzman’s Blues (now available on Netflix), which he wrote after sneaking into a performance of Seven Guitars and meeting playwright August Wilson in Atlanta, but while the famed filmmaker is excited for people to see this film, starring Joshua Boone and Solea Pfeiffer, he has also been “grieving” about his journey with this story coming to an end.
“Strangely enough, I've been grieving about it, because I held it for so long, it was such a baby that I had to get out there, and I wasn't expecting to feel the sadness of it being done, I thought it would all be joy and excitement,” Perry told Yahoo Canada while in Toronto to premiere the film at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). “But I understand that it's not about the movie as much as it is about, ‘OK, now what's next?’”
“But I'm excited for people to see it, as it is, in the truth and the rawness of what I wanted it to be.”
What is 'A Jazzman’s Blues' about?
A Jazzman’s Blues begins in Hopewell, Georgia in 1987, with an elderly woman shutting off the TV as a local politician, running to be elected to Congress, is attempting to justify his racist views in a televised interview.
“I’ve had just about enough of you, mister white man,” the woman says.
She then appears at his office, urging him to look into a murder that happened in 1947. She leaves him with a pile of letters, claiming that everything he needs to know about this murder is written on those pieces of paper.
As he sits down to read the letters, we’re transported to 1937 and start off on the forbidden love story between Bayou (Joshua Boone) and Leanne (Solea Pfeiffer). They fell in love as teens, sneaking out every night to be together, but when Leanne’s mother Ethel (Lana Young) hears about this budding romance, she forces her daughter to move away.
We jump forward 10 years to 1947 and Bayou now lives in Hopewell. Leanne and Bayou have lost touch after she went to live in Boston, but she appears in Hopewell, now with her white, racist husband, a mayoral candidate and the brother of a sheriff. Their chance reunion sparks danger for the pair, particularly because Leanne’s husband has no idea his wife is a Black woman.
Bayou is able to get out of this situation by starting a career as a jazz singer and landing a residency at a dance and supper club in Chicago, but ultimately, he’ll do anything to get Leanne back.
“I haven't really had the opportunity to exist specifically as myself within a story,” Solea Pfeiffer told Yahoo Canada. “I think there's a lot of breakdowns that say a mixed-race person, which is vague, which just means you haven't thought about the character.”
“But here, this character description was me, and so I jumped at the chance to be able to actually have a moment where I'm just like, ‘I don't have to be anything but myself,’ and that is just, it's so freeing, and a really beautiful experience.”
The visuals for A Jazzman’s Blues are incredibly captivating, from the lush Georgia landscapes to the vibrant scenes of Bayou's musical performances, with the music and score crafted as a perfect accompaniment for a full sensory experience.
A 'timeless' story
While Tyler Perry wrote this screenplay almost three decades earlier, he actually didn’t end up changing much for this film, in fact, the message of the film may be more important than ever.
“The only thing I changed about the script is the location, it was really originally Louisiana, now it's Georgia,” Perry said.
“The story, as I read it again, seemed very timeless, in the moment from those 27 years to where it was now, especially with what's going on in America with there being this assault on the history of Black people in the country, and banning of books, and trying to not educate our kids on what really happened not so long ago, that was all part of it.”
While Perry has said that he initially envisioned himself, Will Smith and Halle Berry in the film, he praised Joshua Boone and Solea Pfeiffer’s performances, but also stated that it was difficult to cast the right actors for those roles.
“[Some artists] weren't sure about it, they loved the script, but I don't know if they thought I would have Madea somewhere in the movie,” Perry said.
“To have new faces also was a blessing in the sense that you could just enjoy the movie. You didn't have to overcome ‘I'm looking at some superstar, some Oscar winner’... I'm watching a movie with people I don't know, and there’s something to be said about that.”
Boone highlighted that he learned a lot through the process of taking on Bayou’s journey in A Jazzman’s Blues.
“[Tyler Perry] was so willing to give so much information, that I hoped to be able to use further along in continuing my career, and I feel stronger for having worked with him, having witnessed how he moves and operates on his studio, that land and how he holds space,” Boone said.
"Watching some of it, there were moments where I literally screamed or gasped in response to the visual of something, the sounds...making me feel things, and I hope that the viewers feel the same way."