Director Stephen Williams is well known for his work in the science fiction and fantasy realms of popular television programs like “Watchmen,” “Lost,” and “Westworld,” but his latest movie focuses on the real-life adventures and achievements of Joseph Bologne, a composer from Guadeloupe in the Caribbean and a contemporary of Mozart. The movie, which was released on April 21, 2023, starring Kelvin Harrison Jr. in the title role, explores Bologne’s early life, his close relationship with France’s Queen Marie Antoinette, and his role as “the Jimi Hendrix of his time,” as Williams describes him. The story follows the composer, his work with the prestigious Paris Opera, the top cultural institution in France at the time, and his confrontations with racism evidenced by the fact that several of the Opera’s star singers refused to work with him. When his former music student, Marie Antoinette, did nothing to help him, he turned his attention to social change, became an abolitionist and a soldier in the French Revolution, and headed the first all-Black regiment in France, a force comprising 1,000 men. Following Napoleon’s rise to power, Bologne’s music and legacy were expunged from historical records, a situation that screenwriter Stefani Robinson and director Williams seek to rectify with their new film, which places the French-Caribbean composer at the center of a cultural conversation and offers proof that the history of classical music is populated only by dead, white, Europeans.
Below are 10 interesting facts about director Stephen Williams.
1. Williams, 44, was born in Kingston, Jamaica, on April 26, 1978.
2. He attended high school and university in England after leaving Jamaica and prior to moving to Canada.
3. He began his career as a television director in Canada before writing and directing his first movie, “Soul Survivor” in 1995, a very personal independent effort that starred his brother Peter and took place in Toronto’s Jamaican community.
4. In 1996, he followed his passion for stories of mystery and the supernatural, working on the syndicated Canadian science fiction series, “PSI Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal,” a scripted series presented as genuine video of paranormal investigators, and went on to work on his first American series, directing episodes of James Cameron’s “Dark Angel” in 2000.
5. He won the Gemini Award for “Best Direction in a Dramatic Program or Miniseries” for his work on the 1999 documentary, “Milgaard,” the story of David Milgaard, a Canadian wrongfully convicted of the 1969 rape and murder of Gail Miller, his 22 years seeking justice, and his ultimate release from prison in 1992.
6. Williams directed 26 episodes of the popular TV series, “Lost,” spanning Seasons 1 through 5.
7. He also directed the series “Undercovers” (NBC 2010), “Touch” (Fox 2012-13), “Person of Interest” (CBS2011-16), and “Zero Hour” (ABC 2013).
8. He is probably best known for his work on “Watchmen,” HBO’s Emmy Award-winning series.
9. His brother Peter Williams is an actor on “Stargate SG-1.”
10. Williams knew nothing about Joseph Bologne until he read the screenplay for the film written by Stefani Robinson, an American screenwriter who has won awards for her work on FX’s “Atlanta.”
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