An Interview With ‘Voodoo Macbeth’ Star, Inger Tudor
by Rachel Bellwoar
Before he directed Citizen Kane or scared people into thinking the planet was being invaded by aliens with his radio broadcast of War of the Worlds, Orson Welles directed Voodoo Macbeth, a stage adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth featuring an all-Black cast. Welles wasn’t the one who initially proposed the idea of performing the Scottish play at the Lafayette Theatre, though. That was Rose McClennon, and in the USC Original film, Voodoo Macbeth, Rose is played by actress, Inger Tudor. Find out what drew Tudor to the role in the following interview:
Rachel Bellwoar: Voodoo Macbeth was produced by the USC School of the Cinematic Arts. Did you have a connection to USC going into this project, and what was the casting process like?
Inger Tudor: The head of the program, John Watson, asked me to come in for a table reading of one of the later drafts. I knew John from two previous USC grad school short films I had worked on. I loved the script and was hoping they would ask me to audition. When they did, I was on tour and submitted a self-tape while I was on the road.
Bellwoar: What was it like working with ten directors on Voodoo Macbeth and did it take some getting used to?
Tudor: Working with 10 directors was an exercise in collaboration. As an actor, I had to really know the storyline and the arc of my character. If one director wanted to do something that was slightly out of context with something we had previously shot with another director, I really had to stay on top of Rose’s emotional journey to know if what they wanted made sense for where we were heading in the story.
Bellwoar: Growing up, do you remember what your first encounter was with Shakespeare, and where do you stand on the Scottish play?
Tudor: I believe my earliest encounter with Shakespeare would have been through the sonnets in grade school–I was very much into poetry. My first experience with a Shakespeare play was with Macbeth in High School. I think it’s a tremendous tale of the ills of unchecked vaulting ambition.
Bellwoar: How familiar were you with Orson Welles’ production and what attracted you the most to playing Rose McClendon?
Tudor: I was not at all familiar with this production and that was one of the main attractions to playing this role. Rose is a forgotten Broadway Diva who worked consistently in the roaring twenties and the Harlem Renaissance. To learn that she also shepherded the creation of 11 Negro Theatre Units of the Federal Theatre project around the country was excitng. She was a strong, in-charge Black woman with complicated hopes and desires in a bygone era and those can be some of the most intriguing roles.
Bellwoar: Among your theater credits you’ve also played Madame Capulet in Romeo & Juliet: Antebellum New Orleans, 1836. How would you compare doing Shakespeare on film to performing Shakespeare on stage?
Tudor: Since our film is about the creation of a Shakespeare production, you only get to do bits and pieces of the whole play, but you have to have the whole story within you to accurately portray those specific moments that are called for in the film. The big difference is in a full production you can live out all the moments.
Bellwoar: Rose McClendon and Orson Welles have very different approaches to directing. What was it like working with Jewell Wilson Bridges and figuring out that relationship?
Tudor: Working with Jewell was a dream. He’s a very giving person and actor. We hit it off from the start, and I think being from the same part of the country, and both living and working in NYC before coming to LA was a wonderful common starting ground. A lot of the friction between Rose and Orson is written in the script–it’s not subtext–so we just had to make it authentic and real for ourselves. Jewell and I have a great mutual respect for each other, so I think that also helped as Rose comes to respect this junior upstart that she’s allowed to direct her play.
Bellwoar: In the same way that Lady Macbeth was a dream role for Rose McClendon, do you have a dream role you’d love to play someday?
Tudor: Oh, I have too many dream roles I want to play to list here, but a few of them include Lady M, Shelah in Head of Passes by Tarell Alvin McCraney, Medea, and Marvelous in Familiar by Danai Gurira.
Bellwoar: Thanks for agreeing to this interview, Inger!
Voodoo Macbeth is in theaters now. Click here to find out if the film is playing in your area.