Stephen Henderson of ‘Fences’ Has a Great Face for the Movies: Awards Spotlight

With an extensive history on stage and screen, Henderson's presence is an invaluable addition to Denzel Washington's adaptation of "Fences."

Stephen Henderson

Daniel Bergeron

Stephen Henderson isn’t a household name, but Stephen Henderson is certainly a familiar face. The actor has appeared in everything from “Lincoln” to “Tower Heist,” while maintaining a vibrant career on the stage. With “Fences,” he merges those worlds, reviving his role as Jim Bono in Denzel Washington’s adaptation of the August Wilson play.

Henderson first played Jim, the best friend (and former jailmate) of Washington’s Troy, in a Broadway rendition of the show. Washington’s faithful adaptation differs in one key respect: closeups. As Jim jokes and argues with his longtime pal, Washington’s camera closes in on the actor’s smiling face, which speaks volumes about the extent to which camaraderie can rescue troubled men. Jim remains supportive even as Troy takes a turn for the worst, and Henderson’s innately warm presence goes great lengths to brighten up the melancholic drama.

The actor’s radiant screen presence is no happy accident. Henderson spoke about his passion for bringing out “the original brilliance in works of art.”

Henderson had to commit to the role no matter the practical challenges he faced off screen. Here, he talks about struggling with a hip replacement shortly before production began.

Of course, “Fences” is an ensemble piece, which meant that every role required careful collaboration. Henderson shared his thoughts on his process for connecting with fellow actors:

The most astonishing performance in the film in terms of volume and intensity belongs to Viola Davis, who plays Troy’s passionate wife. Henderson said she was “appreciated by every artist I know,” and elaborated on his own enthusiasm for her talent.

This year’s Awards Spotlight series is produced with help from our partners at Movies On Demand, who shot and produced the video interviews, and from Hollywood Proper, who provided location services for our Los Angeles shoots.

You can find all Contender Conversations at our Awards Spotlight homepage.

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