Collider Ladies Night is all about going back to the beginning and retracing someone’s steps to their latest release. While pouring over Marsha Stephanie Blake’s filmography in preparation for her episode in celebration of the new Netflix series, Social Distance, I caught Django Unchained on her IMDb line-up with “uncredited” right next to it. Clearly that means the person didn’t receive an on-screen credit, but why they didn’t is another matter. Was it a small cameo appearance? Was it to preserve a surprise in a movie? Did the person choose not to be credited in the movie? Or, was it because their scene was cut? In Blake’s case on Django, it was the latter.
Blake has been racking up the stellar credits lately, like Luce, a personal favorite film of 2019, and Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us for which she scored an Emmy nomination, but back when Quentin Tarantino was casting Django, Blake was still fairly new to Hollywood.
“I auditioned a bunch of times for the lead in Django. I was a complete unknown. The part that Kerry Washington eventually did, brilliantly. I was completely unknown. I had never really done a movie. Like, not a big budget film at all. I did this taped audition in New York and then the next thing, they were flying me to meet Quentin Tarantino in LA and then he flew me to Louisiana. Or wait; maybe it was the other way around? Anyway, he flew me places where I met with him and auditioned with just him and Vicky Thomas, his casting director who’s wonderful. And then I didn’t get the part. I was so excited to be auditioning for Quentin Tarantino, I was just like, ‘Whatever! I can’t believe I got as far as I got being someone who was completely unknown!’”
But it turns out, even though Blake didn’t book that part, her journey with this particular project didn’t end there.
“I had read the script. The script was, I’m not joking, this thick. I remember specifically this giant script. The part I eventually shot was not in this giant script. I almost feel like – and this is just me thinking that Quentin Tarantino cares about me this much – I feel like he wrote me a part after flying me all over the place! Because this thing didn’t exist, right? It’s one of the slaves, she’s in the big house and she has this interaction with Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson. You know, the big names, she has this very sort of funny interaction coming up the steps. I did it. I flew again to New Orleans, shot it with Sam and Christoph Waltz on this wonderful, insane set. I even ran into Kerry! I kind of knew Kerry from before but I even ran into her. We had a big chat. And it was just so wonderful to be in this thing!”
Unfortunately, that scene was ultimately cut from the film and while I’d like to bet that’s not the best news to get, Blake did understand why it happened:
“I understand actually why I got cut, because I think the scene that happens right before my scene – my scene was repetitive. In terms of the dynamics, what they were showing about the slaves – because my scene was Sam Jackson basically yelling at me, but he had kind of just done that outside with Kerry and I do feel like, ‘Oh ok, I think I would have cut my scene too. It’s repetitive. We just saw him doing the same humiliating, yelling at, mocking a woman outside and then he comes in and he kind of does the same thing to me. So that’s what happened.”
As someone who’s mighty sensitive about her work, I doubt I’d be mature enough to put the big picture before my big moment and not get swallowed up in the disappointment. After expressing that to Blake, she admitted:
“Ok, so here’s the thing. This was eight years ago, maybe; I don’t know if I handled it extremely well when I found out! I’ve had some time to reflect, to be mature about it. When I found out, I was devastated. And I think at that point my husband – and now we do not do it – my husband had told everybody I was in Django Unchained, and then they go to the movie theater and I am not in Django Unchained. So I don’t do that anymore! I’m like, ‘Do not say a word until I see the final cut of this thing and know for sure!’ It taught me a good lesson but yeah, I don’t know if I was super mature to begin with.”
In a sense, Blake did wind up with the best of both worlds; she got the experience of working with Tarantino on Django and even though she was cut out of the film, she still went on to rack up a slew of impressive credits on stage, on screen and, thanks to Social Distance, behind the lens in a sense now, too! We’ll have so much more from Blake on her experience making her episode of Social Distance, what it was like working with Daniel Craig on Othello, the qualities she admires most about Ava DuVernay, and so much more when her full episode of Collider Ladies Night drops later this week.