“Abbott Elementary’ star Sheryl Lee Ralph reflected on having Sidney Poitier as a director for her film debut “A Piece of the Action” at the premiere Wednesday of the documentary film “Sidney.”
“When I met him, he did not let me down,” Sheryl Lee Ralph told TheWrap at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures premiere, noting that at the time she was a “newbie” to the industry. “A lot of people you meet, they let you down. He did not let me down my very first film. He took such time with me, and I appreciated that so much. He took the time to be a great model for me.”
Fresh off of her first Emmy win, Ralph remembered the “great example of a man” who shaped her career, attending the screening alongside a cadre of celebrities gathered on Wednesday night to celebrate the premiere of the new Apple TV+ documentary “Sidney,” which is a testament to the legacy of the man at the center of the show.
For director Reginald Hudlin, everything from Poitier’s childhood to his efforts on behalf of civil rights to the making of his movies his family was “essential” to be told, noting that production used a two-day interview that Oprah Winfrey conducted with Poitier as a backbone for the film.
Given his vast of both personal and professional contributions, the film’s executive team “started with talking to the people that meant the most to him,” including longtime friend Harry Belafonte — who producer Catherine Cyr notes that the intimacy within this known friend is “almost a love story in and of itself with its own separate film” — his first wife — who Hudlin suspects no one has ever interviewed before — his second wife and his children, including his daughter Sydney Poitier.
“He was elegant and full of integrity as he is in his performances and in his way of life; there’s not a lot that people don’t already know about him,” Sydney Poitier told TheWrap, noting that she is glad the film highlighted how important family was to him and what a great dad he was. “The most important things about him and his character and what he’s given to the world people already know.”
Poitier’s daughter also hopes the film exposes younger generations to a trailblazer like Poitier, saying, “he really did change the course of history and there’s such an incredible and strong legacy there that a lot of young people don’t know.”
Executive producer Terry Wood echoed this sentiment by pointing to the many younger people that Poitier opened doors for — an element highlighted in the film — underscoring that “he was the first one in.” “That’s why it’s great for a younger audience to be able to see because right now … everyone thinks every door is open … But it wasn’t that way when he came up in the business,” Wood told TheWrap of Poitier, who died in January at 94.
For executive producer Catherine Cyr, who is a longtime fan of Poitier’s autobiography “The Measure of a Man,” the film “elevates an iconic legacy like this in a time when we need moral conviction.” “I just admired his conviction and his moral compass — he never wavered in what he was … What people are gonna see is what he was able to do in the ’60s and ’70s … by preserving his moral compass, and just doing the right thing over and over again.”