I found myself intrigued with the history of women-led revolts during times of enslavement, mostly because it is barely mentioned when it comes to Black History. With the new audio drama, Wake, the audience is taken on a journey with Dr. Rebecca Hall as she learns more about these fierce and inspiring women while facing her own obstacles, including resistance from the educational system. With Dr. Hall’s story of perseverance and the captivating voice acting of DeWanda Wise, Wake is an audio project you’ll definitely have to check out. Dr. Hall and Wise were able to take the time to discuss the journey of the project with Taji Mag.
Dapper Dr.Feel (DDF): What inspired you to turn your graphic novel into the audio version that has just been released?
Dr. Rebecca Hall (DRH): The Podium, who produced the audiobook, swooped right in and was like, “We wanna make an audio drama” and I’m like, “Awesome!”
DDF: Ms. Wise, how did you get involved with this project?
DeWanda Wise (DW): My TV agent sent it to me. They know that I love information. I need as much information as humanly possible, so they sent it all at once. I just devoured it all, honestly. I read the graphic novel and I was a real creep and really dug into Dr. Rebecca Hall’s whole life, as much as [was] available online. I was really struck by it and it was one of those things that I could automatically recognize as kindred, both in ideological point of view and the approach to the project. Something that we talked about quite a bit was my approach as an actor, it was quite anthropological. I was also an Urban Studies major, so I’m just deeply invested in how we carry our lives and the lives of our ancestors.
I prefer to be hit [with projects that grab my attention], which is, like, deep, you know. It’s just, it struck me really deep. Yeah. Yeah.
DDF: So how was your preparation different from your acting roles or your theater roles?
DW: Not much to be honest with you. I think my approach is my approach. I’m like super research-centric. It was mainly kind of balancing and matching her (Dr. Rebecca Hall’s) very iconic voice. Very specific.
DRH: My voice is iconic?
DW: As soon as someone hears your voice, they’re like, “I know who that is”. Now you know this about yourself.
DRH: I don’t know this about myself at all.
DW: Now you do.
DDF: Dr. Hall, you’ve been through a lot during your career…being fired and taking jobs you were over qualified for. How did you continue to press on?
DRH: Yeah, it was a nightmare. There’s actually so much that’s not even in the story, but I actually kept track of how many jobs I applied for. At one point, this was actually during the recession. I had 184 cover letters that I created over a two-year period. I was a mess. I mean, the last time I got fired, I got in the car and drove down to Moab, which is about four hours from my house. Then checked into some fancy place and stayed for a few days. I was already overwhelmed and doing all of this. I had a lot of legal support from protestors. My partner was very supportive and kept motivating me to move forward.
My father was really influential: he helped shape this, this determination I have. He was born in 1898, and never finished eighth grade. He lived in Chicago, working weird jobs like shoe shining and waiting tables. He kept getting fired because he wouldn’t be deferential to white people. Like, he wasn’t doing the Jim Crow thing and he just kept getting fired. I guess that’s in my DNA.
DDF: DeWanda, what was one of the obstacles you faced while recording?
DW: There weren’t really any obstacles. It was a really lovely week, honestly. I’d just finished a job that was very lovely, but also very white. So the experience on Wake was so nice. These are some of my favorite actors. I get there and Chante Adams is there, it was so lovely! [There] was a Black woman Playwright, Black woman Director… Podium really lets us do our thing.
DDF: Dr. Hall, so which one was worse, reading the painful stories of Black women in the past or revisiting your past while developing this project?
DRH: It’s interesting. I was just thinking about that. So, in the book, where I talk about how difficult it was…my emotional journey dealing with a lot of racism obstacles at Archives…it was all almost 20 years ago, so I have a kind of distance from it. Whereas, Wake is very present. So in a way, it was kind of more painful to write this.
DDF: DeWanda, what historical figure would you portray in a movie?
DW: I would play Assata Shakur in a second! We were talking about getting the rights to that book and it is impossible because she’s a fugitive in Cuba. I’ve asked and am really trying to figure out a loophole, but yeah.
DDF: Would you write that movie?
DRH: I don’t think so, but I don’t know. Shakur’s autobiography helped me survive law school at Berkeley. Like, it was, you know, it was one of those reads where, at different moments of my life, I read it when I needed it.
Make sure to purchase your copy of Wake, available exclusively on Audible now.
Wake is an imaginative tour-de-force that tells the powerful story of women-led slave revolts, and chronicles scholar Dr. Rebecca Hall’s efforts to uncover the truth about these women warriors who, until now, have been left out of the historical record.
Cast: DeWanda Wise, Chanté Adams, Jerrie Johnson, Fọlákẹ́ Olówófôyekù, Katherine McNamara, Bahni Turpin, Rhian Rees, Karen Malina White, Román Zaragoza, Alex Ubokudom, John Clarence Stewart, Blake Cooper Griffin, Tim DeKay, Kate Steele, André Sogliuzzo, and Matthew Wolf.
Originally published as a part graphic novel and part memoir, Podium Audio acquired the exclusive global audio rights to Wake, the graphic novel named one of the Best Books of 2021 by NPR. Over the last year, Podium Audio has developed this work into a feature-length audio play in partnership with critically acclaimed playwright and television writer Tyler English-Beckwith.