The Law and Order actor is blown away by Shakespeare and Zora Neale Hurston, awed by Quincy Jones and Langston Hughes, and moved by great black history.
As a child, I was fortunate enough to be close to family members who were—and still are—great storytellers. I was a gullible country boy from Rocky Mount, Virginia, and I believed every folktale they told me, no matter how fantastic. I remember one called "The Letter Carrier." In it, small children are warned away from the letter box because that's where the mailman comes, and he's really a slave catcher who finds children and takes them farther down South to sell as slaves. It was our bogeyman story. It was our entertainment. And most important, it was a way to get us to go to bed. But these narratives also fostered a love of reading, writing, and language, and a suspension of disbelief. I'm now taking some of the tall tales, expanding on them, and attaching them to real-life situations—writing my own stories based on the ones I heard back then.
Jesse L. Martin appears in the movie version of Rent.
What's on Jesse L. Martin's Bookshelf? Read more!
Printed from Oprah.com on Wednesday, March 12, 2014
© 2014 Harpo Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.