Telling Buried Stories in Film & Life - Episode 4: Kevin Willmott
Kevin Willmott – where do we even begin? How about at the beginning: Kevin grew up in Junction City, Kansas, a place aptly named because it’s a junction of cultures and histories. Because of the nearby army base, Fort Riley, Junction City mosaicked brown, black, and indigenous peoples as well as families from around the world in a swirl of Kansas hospitality, although it was surrounded by largely white communities where families rooted back generations. He said Junction City was and is “the America that the fight is over now” as a multi-racial democracy.
That influenced Kevin mightily as well as the injustices he experienced and witnessed, prompting him to work as an organizer right out of college in Junction, helping the homeless while also forcing the integration of some long-standing segregated institutions. But theater and film were always some of his big loves, and after graduating from the NYU Tisch School fo the Arts, he found his groove as a screenwriter as well as as actor, director, producer, and professor at the University of Kansas. Thanks to that last gig and his love of Lawrence, he lives here, aka Center of the Universe (where I also live).
Some of of Kevin’s films include The Confederate State of America, a daring and disturbing parody on what if the south won the Civil War. He’s also written Ninth Street, an independent film starring Martin Sheen and Isaac Hayes, about his growing up in Junction City. His other films are pretty vast, but here’s a sampling: The Battle for Bunker Hill, The Only Good Indian (starting Wes Studi), William Allen White: What’s the Matter with Kansas?, Jayhawkers, Destination Planet Negro, and a bunch of films he collaborated on with Spike Lee, including Chi-Raq, Da 5 Bloods, and KKKlansman, which won him an Oscar and thrilled our community and all who know him.
Kevin is a good man, a great guy, a generous soul who lifts up other artists, writers, musicians and activists in hundreds of small, quiet acts. He’s a family man with in love with his wife, grown kids, and his first grandson. He’s also kind enough to sit down for this interview with me. More on Kevin in IMDB and the University of Kansas.
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