‘Sidney Poitier was the only light at the end of the tunnel’: Don Warrington on his lifelong hero | Movies

Once I was in my late 30s, somebody got here as much as me in the road and began speaking to me as if I had been Sidney Poitier. To the extent that they referred to as me “Sidney”. I mentioned: “I’m sorry – my identify is Don.” And so they seemed at me and mentioned: “Oh Sidney, when did you alter your identify?” They merely wouldn’t settle for I was any person else.

Even when you didn’t mannequin your self after Poitier, different folks would. He was simply the go-to reference. I’ve but to satisfy a Black actor who hasn’t been in comparison with him – which is each irritating and pleasant. And says extra about the one making the comparability.

But once I was a little bit boy rising up in Newcastle, I was of course impressed by him. Poitier meant every part as a result of he was the only light at the end of the tunnel. He was there and doing it and visual and Black. Nobody else was – or, at least, virtually nobody. And at that age one by some means wanted inspiration from an virtually untouchable supply.


Poitier climbed the ladder however he didn’t pull it up after him. He mentioned: ‘That is it! You may come right here too, and if I may help, I’ll’

Poitier had finished it. And he’d finished it with dignity and panache and charm. There wasn’t a second in something I ever noticed him do on movie which made me really feel ashamed, which was exceptional. I bear in mind watching The Defiant Ones and In the Warmth of the Evening and Lilies of the Subject and I was so proud of him. There was no sense of this being a Black man doing one thing – it was only a man. He by some means allowed folks into him, past his color.

I believe the different cause he particularly related with me is that we each got here from the Caribbean [Poitier from the Bahamas; Warrington from Trinidad]. I might relate to him coming from a sister island and so his course felt like one I’d be capable of chart too. Different folks merely appeared out of attain.

‘I was so proud of him’ … Tony Curtis, Cara Williams and Sidney Poitier in The Defiant Ones in 1958. {Photograph}: United Artists/Allstar

I believe this heritage was additionally essential in his lower by means of with each white and Black audiences in the US. Being exterior the system meant he didn’t have that oppressive historical past People do. There was a sort of respiratory area. Possibly it allowed him to be extra himself at a time when to be Black and in America and making an attempt to do what he was doing was very, very laborious.


That terrible legacy nonetheless weighs closely. It could be one of the the reason why folks corresponding to Steve McQueen and Chiwetel Ejiofor might make – and be celebrated for – 12 Years a Slave: they weren’t American. Being an outsider at all times makes a distinction, though it’s not at all times a superb factor. It offers you distance but additionally leaves you barely remoted.

Poitier went out of trend. For some folks he was too white to be Black. They wished to present Black folks a full vary and didn’t take care of that sort of illustration. However he carried on doing precisely what he was at all times doing and the world got here again to him. I believe few folks understand how dedicated he was to the trigger, and the way brilliantly he used his insider standing in the system to his – and different Black folks’s – benefit. I believe he typically used subterfuge to get what he wished.

He made it attainable not only for Black actors to behave however for Black folks to need to do it. He climbed the ladder however he didn’t pull it up after him. He went: “That is it! You may come right here too, and if I may help, I’ll.”

Poitier was the one who made it to the high of the hill. It was a tough climb, however he did it, and his achievement possibly supplied a glimpse of what could be attainable for folks like me. We might at least attempt.

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