descendants of New Orleans’ 7th Ward,
many of whom moved to Los Angeles
during the Great Migration and after
Hurricane Katrina. The production has
toured major U.S. cities and received critical
acclaim. Portions of the proceeds from
a series of performances in Los Angeles
were donated to the New Orleans all-girls’
school, Xavier Prep, following Hurricane
Roger has struck up a long-running
friendship with New Orleans saxophonist
Branford Marsalis, dating back to
“School Daze” in which both of them
performed. They have appeared in
several other films together since
then, and Marsalis and his band
have accompanied him live on the
Douglass and ‘Creole Mafia’ pieces.
Marsalis also recorded solos for the
Newton telefilm score.
In the aftermath of Katrina, Roger
lent his support to the Marsalis family’s
efforts to build – along with Harry
Connick Jr. – the Musicians Village in
New Orleans’ Upper 9th Ward.
Roger’s Louisiana connection also
extends to one of his favorite shows
that he worked on over the years – a
recurring role in Baton Rouge native
Steven Soderbergh’s 2003 HBO
series, “K Street.” The show, depicting
Washington, DC politicians and
lobbyists, included New Orleans
political couple James Carville and
Mary Matalin. “It was one of the more
interesting gigs that I’ve ever had. It
was completely improvised which was
right up my alley,” Roger laughed.
In addition, Roger has been featured in
another Louisiana-based production, Ava
DuVernay’s “Queen Sugar,” an ongoing
series airing on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN
network since 2016.
He also pointed with pride to the
supporting role he had in Spike Lee’s
1992 production of “Malcolm X.” “I
was certainly proud to be a part of that
because that film was such a long time
in coming,” he said. “The ensemble was
working on a very high level to make that
“Juan and John,” a recent stage production
he wrote and performed, stems from
a violent event he witnessed on TV at the
age of 10. Roger, a longtime Los Angeles
Dodgers fan, was watching a baseball
game between the Dodgers and the San
Francisco Giants in August 1965 during
which Giants pitcher Juan Marichal hit
Dodgers catcher John Roseboro in the
head with a bat.
“I was traumatized by that and I burned
Marichal’s baseball card,” he recalled.
“Roseboro was a hero of mine. I had met
him and got his autograph. My nickname
was ‘Roger Dodger.’”
Decades later Roseboro and
Marichal reconciled and became
close friends. The friendship that
resulted, Roger said, provided much
of the focus of the play he wrote.
Summing up his long, eventful
career, Roger is humble about
his accomplishments and justifiably
proud of the portrayals he has
brought to the screen and stage. “I
love what I do and I look forward to
doing more of it,” he concluded.
Roger Guenveur Smith will return to
New Orleans to receive an award at a
Gala fundraiser for the Anthony Bean
Community Theater on April 17. The
Gala is part of the First Annual Louisiana
Black Theatre Conference & Festival
being held at Southern University at
New Orleans over the weekend of April
16-19. Tickets are on sale and available
through the ABCT website, www.
AnthonyBeanTheater.com or by calling
(504) 862-PLAY (7529).
PHOTO COURTESY OF ROGER GUENVEUR SMITH
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