Denzel Washington Brings August Wilson’s “Pittsburgh Cycle” Plays to HBO

     September 18, 2015


Denzel Washington’s most recent box office hit was the Sony action-thriller The Equalizer, which did so well that the Oscar-winning actor will return for his first-ever sequel. His next project, however, is an ambitious series of adaptations that will bring the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama plays of August Wilson to HBO over the course of a decade. Washington will direct and star in Fences, while acting as Executive Producer for the nine other plays.

THR reports that Washington has made a deal with HBO and the August Wilson Estate to bring the 10 plays to the premium channel with a new one released each year. Washington won a Tony award for the 2010 broadway version of Fences alongside Viola Davis, who will also star in the HBO adaptation. This play, set in 1950s Pittsburgh, tells the story of a former baseball athlete who struggles to provide for his family as a trash collector.

denzel-washington-viola-davis-fencesHere’s what Washington had to say about Wilson and the overall project:

“He did 10 plays. I’ve been given the opportunity by the August Wilson estate. I’m directing and producing and acting in one (Fences) and I’m executive producing the other nine. I made a deal with HBO.


“We’re going to do one a year for the next nine years. I’m really excited about that. That that they put it in my hands, the estate, and trust me. That’s good enough for me. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

The plays of Wilson’s ten-play cycle, known as the Pittsburgh Cycle or the Century Cycle, each take place in a different decade of the 20th century. With the exception of one play that takes place in Chicago, they’re all set in Pittsburgh’s Hill District neighborhood, where Wilson himself grew up. Wilson’s African-American heritage played a central role in his upbringing and difficult childhood plagued with racial tensions, elements which found their way into his playwriting. Washington addressed that as follows:

“His stories are specifically African American stories, but the themes are universal,” said Washington. “Families, love, betrayal whatever the theme is. People relate and enjoy listening to or seeing his work. He was just a bright, brilliant shining light who was here and then he was gone, but his work will live forever to be interpreted by actors and directors for as long as we’re here.”

The nine other Wilson plays are Gem of the Ocean, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Piano Lesson, Seven Guitars, Two Trains Running, Jitney, King Hedley II, and Radio Golf.


Image via Sony