In the latest episode of Netflix’s “Strong Black Lead” podcast, screen legend Bill Duke sits down with host Tracy Clayton to talk about his storied career in film and TV.
Duke, who currently stars as a surly basketball coach in High Flying Bird, spoke about everything from his earliest encounters with racism and colorism in the Black church to his friendship with Richard Pryor.
“I come up in a segregated 1943 atmosphere of segregation. On the way from church one day when my sister and I were 7 or 8, I was beaten by some white bikers. They called me everything from n*gger to whatever it was. And I ran home and told my father. He got his gun and rode around looking for them. My sister and I would see them but not tell him that we saw them because he would have killed them and went to jail.”
Duke goes on to tell more harrowing stories, like his first day in kindergarten being called “n*gger” and “spook,” then going home to try and wash off his Black skin with cleanser. “I wasn’t fond of white people.”
The 68-year-old’s acting and directing credits span decades, including films like Commando, Predator and Sister Act 2, but the role that seems to resonate the most with young fans is his portrayal of a no-nonsense detective in 1993’s Menace II Society. His “You know you done f**ked up right?” with the punctuating finger point is the stuff of gif and meme legend.
“It’s crazy, out of all of the movies I’ve ever made, acted in or directed, the one thing these kids come up to me and say is that. No matter where I am,” he says with a smile. While cussing at your elders is not the best idea, he takes it in stride. “It’s good. They love the movie, they love what happened. I appreciate their appreciation.”
Watch the clip below and listen to the full podcast here.
Photo Credit: Shamayim/Netflix