From the Vaults: "Let the Work Speak for Itself"
The occasion for the 2003 interview was the release of Alien: The Director's Cut, in which Kotto co-starred. The actor had a lot to say on the subject, although our discussion often strayed from the topic. The phone conversation was fascinating, and I remember Kotto as being quite talkative. His is one of the only interviews on which I have ever had to pull the plug, albeit reluctantly. But after a couple hours I sensed I had better hang up or face being on the phone for a couple additional hours and never getting around to writing.
Kotto's commentary on a career of acting choices that intentionally defied racial stereotyping is incisive and personal. One reason he coveted the role in Alien was the opportunity to be "the first African-American in space." But Kotto also discusses the death of the Hollywood studio system, of which he views himself as one of the last beneficiaries. His time on television's Big Valley introduced him to the series' grande dame Barbara Stanwyck, whom he calls his "guru." He talks about the strong influence several great actresses had on his career: how Mary Astor would call him regularly from the nursing home to "rag his ass" about his career, and how Judy Holliday produced a play he performed in when he was 19. You can read Kotto's own words in "Let the Work Speak for Itself."