The Last Days of Ptolemy Gray, adapted from the original novel by author Walter Mosley, recently debuted on Apple TV+ as a weekly limited series. With Samuel L. Jackson, The, theDays of Ptolemy Gray chronicles Ptolemy’s journey with an experimental drug that (temporarily) cures his dementia and his personal quest to avenge a lost family member. Key to both stories is Ptolemy’s beloved nephew and guardian Reggie, played by Omar Benson Miller. Another critical character is Ptolemy’s niece, Niecie, played by Marsha Stephanie Blake, who struggles to come to terms with the changes in Ptolemy’s life.
At a recent press event, CBR spoke with Blake and Miller about the show and their characters’ different outlooks on life. The two also talked about the show’s perspectives on the complexities of family and all that comes with it.
CBR: Reggie’s character is actually in a position that we don’t often see male characters in, especially since he’s not only a guardian, but he’s also kindness to Ptolemy.
Omar Benson Miller: I think Reggie’s approach is that taking care of his uncle is not an obligation. It is partly a duty, but it is also partly an honor. It’s something that drew me to the character and [part of] how we developed the character between me, Ramin Bahrani, who directed Episode 1, and Sam. I think the portrayal is where we want to show the connection between black men and the humanity therein. You don’t often see the vulnerability of this relationship.
I hope you felt that because I’m really into material that challenges the viewer instead of just gorging them on everything. I think we were able to do something special with the cast and the dynamic directors and awesome writers that we have. It put us in a position to challenge ourselves as performers [and] challenge the audience while respecting their intelligence.
Meanwhile, early on, Niecie has a tough scene with Robin where she basically takes an opposite stance to Reggie. It’s a lot to unpack, the decision she makes there about what to do with Robin and her son.
Marsha Stephanie Blake: I think there are many. It’s not just masculine-feminine, but it’s also that situation where it’s about putting blood on someone who isn’t blood but whom you love as much as blood. Who are you going to side with and who are you Assumed beside? I think Niecie really struggles with that. I think ultimately she makes a choice. I don’t know if she’s ever comfortable with that. Much of what we see later is guilt. I also talked about it with Ramin, how incapable Niecie is of just admitting that she may have made a mistake – and then how guilt shows up in other ways.
With that guilt, the show seems to be about how her family is dealing with — and not dealing with — this situation. What is happening could really happen in any family, black or otherwise.
Miller: I think [that] all families are dysfunctional and functional in their own dynamic way. Culturally, we all handle things differently. What we see in The Last Days of Ptolemy Gray, [which I think] brings that honesty and authenticity is that we see the levels of roles that everyone plays within a family – the family you are born into, the family you choose… All of that is a measure of things [that] can happen in life, of which you are sometimes the victim and of which you have sometimes been the catalyst. That’s all that makes us people. This story is totally unpredictable.
Black: There are no easy answers. There are no easy solutions. I think that’s what’s so real about the show. That it’s not just about a black family — it’s about the complexity and layers of being part of a family. It’s not an easy thing and I think everyone can understand that. There’s a lot of joy, of course, and there’s a lot of love, but the very idea of love is complex.
The Last Days of Ptolemy Gray is now streaming on Apple TV+.
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