On the latest episode of PeopleTV’s Couch Surfing, actor Jeffrey Wright reflected on his most memorable roles, from Colin Powell in W. to Bernard in Westworld. But Wright’s most colorful character of all might be Peoples Hernandez, the Dominican drug lord from the 2000 film Shaft. Host Lola Ogunnaike discussed the performance with him as they watched a scene from the film, in which Peoples confronts Samuel L. Jackson’s titular detective.
Specifically, Ogunnaike wanted to know how Wright settled on his distinctive accent for Peoples. She noted that it did indeed sound like New York City Dominican accent, and Wright said that he actively drew from real people he knew.
“A lot of people say, ‘Oh, that’s no Latin accent,’ because people are really ignorant that the Dominican thing is a totally different thing,” Wright said. “I used to go to this old Jewish men’s club, and there was a dude named Rafi, Raphael, who used to run the joint. And Rafi used to come up to me, he was Dominican, and he’d come up to me and say [imitating accent], ‘Jeffrey, you are turning into a vampire.’ I said, ‘Huh?’ He said, ‘You are turning into a vampire, you know like Dracula with the fangs.’ Because I always came at night.”
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Wright continued, “Rafi was one of the voices I used to find that thing, where they let the end of the word slide. Out of a combination of voices, I found Peoples’ voice.”
Watch the video above for more.