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On Late Night, Don Cheadle talks SNL, Avengers burlesque, and Condoleezza Rice telling him to shut up

Don Cheadle, Seth Meyers
Screenshot: Late Night With Seth Meyers

Don Cheadle (a.k.a the answer to every “Who can’t you believe doesn’t have an Oscar?” poll) sat down with Seth Meyers on Tuesday in advance of Cheadle’s first-ever Saturday Night Live hosting gig this weekend. “It’s banana sauce,” admitted Cheadle to former SNL head writer Meyers, who agreed that, yeah, show week at SNL is, indeed, banana sauce. Perhaps segueing with thoughts of SNL’s coke-fueled early days in mind, Cheadle and Meyers then talked about the need for Cheadle and co-stars Regina Hall, Andrew Rannells, and Paul Scheer to snort copious amounts of onscreen powder for his new Showtime Wall Street series, Black Monday. Verisimilitude be damned, Cheadle shared that it’s powdered B12 the actors are hoovering up their noses throughout the raucous tale of 1980s, pre-collapse financial district excess. Although, whatever energizing properties the vitamin supposedly has are counteracted by the fact that he and his colleagues are being asked to inhale a cigarette boat’s-worth of particulate matter into their sinus cavities. (He did say that, despite his reputation preceding him “in a cloud of smoke,” series producer, marijuana booster, and pilot co-director Seth Rogen manages his duties just fine.)

Of course, Cheadle’s day job (in that it represents, as he told Meyers, a commitment to 12 solid years of days) is playing James Rhodes/War Machine in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, something that has its own occupational hazards. Like being recognized when walking down a busy London street alongside co-star superhero pals Robert Downey Jr., Jeremy Renner, and the Chrises, Hemsworth and Evans, on your way to a quiet evening of burlesque theater. Or not being recognized, as Cheadle says the group surprisingly but most definitely was not, even when Evans started trying to out Hemsworth by telling everyone, “I got—this is Thor!”

But it’s not all fake cocaine and superhero stripping for Cheadle, as Meyers asked the actor and outspoken activist about the time he met with then Secretary Of State Condoleezza Rice. Referring to a picture of him meeting with Rice in the White House, the Hotel Rwanda star—whose books with John Prendergast about the genocide in Darfur were highly critical of the George W. Bush administration’s lack of response to the crisis—told Meyers that he was summoned after testifying in front of Congress. “It was kind of like getting called into the principal’s office,” Cheadle said, adding that Rice’s message was, essentially, “George Bush can’t stop the genocide in Darfur. You guys need to shut up.” “Oh word? That’s interesting,” deadpanned Cheadle, remembering the incident, before telling Meyers that that story was how he kicked off every book signing from then on.


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Dennis Perkins

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.