This interview was originally published in 2015.
Roger Moore recently said it would be “unrealistic” for James Bond to be black. In Live and Let Die, you were the first main Bond villain who was black – so far the only one. What’s your take?
James Bond cannot be black. Political correctness be damned, we have to stay with what is literally correct. He was established by Ian Fleming as a white character, played by white actors. It’s silly. Play 003 or 006 but you cannot be 007. A lot of people say we should be allowed to play everything. Don’t be ridiculous. If I say I want to play JFK I should be laughed out the room. Why should James Bond be black? It’s silly.
But James Bond is fictional.
I don’t think it’s right for black actors or writers to do roles that whites have made historically white heroic roles. These roles are not written for black men. Black men should stop trying to play white heroes. We have pens. Put a black man in a role that no one else has established.
Is it true you were not allowed to do press for Live and Let Die or attend the premiere?
They were afraid the public would react negatively to a black villain so they didn’t play my character up. That hurt me a lot, man. I went through a lot of goddamn emotional hell because they were afraid people would be angry that a black guy was not being Sidney Poitier. I was the opposite of everything he created.
Being a villain is as positive as being a hero, in some ways.
Yes it is.
I went through a lot of goddamn emotional hell because they were afraid people would be angry that a black guy was not being Sidney Poitier
Thinking about it now, your character in Live and Let Die could have been a terrible stereotype.
Oh man, you are hitting it right on the head brother. That was the danger of that role. When I read that script, I said man, if this is played the wrong way… I had to play Kananga in a way that was so believable you became mesmerised. You see a guy who is completely together – almost as together as James Bond himself.