Jeffrey Wright Discusses “Erasure”, the Novel that Inspired “American Fiction”: ‘It’s A Great Read’ (Exclusive)

The Oscar-nominated actor calls the book's author, Percival Everett, "a brilliant writer'

<p>Vivien Killilea/Getty</p> Jeffrey Wright

Vivien Killilea/Getty

Jeffrey Wright

Jeffrey Wright shared his thoughts on American Fiction’s source material and spoiler alert: he’s a fan.

When speaking with PEOPLE at the American Black Film Festival Honors in Los Angeles on March 3, the Oscar nominee — who is up for Best Actor for his role in American Fiction — praised the book the movie is based on: the 2001 novel Erasure by Percival Everett.

“Percival Everett is a brilliant writer: funny, seriously smart about the issues that he brings up, fluent in issues and the nuance around race culture, but also his interests are broad,” Wright said, of the author. “He said that he doesn't write autobiographical pieces, but that there's a lot of him infused in this character, Thelonious 'Monk' Ellison, that I play, who's just an incredibly interesting mind…It's a great read.”

'Erasure' by Percival Everett
'Erasure' by Percival Everett

American Fiction and Erasure both follow Thelonious “Monk” Ellison, a Black author who is frustrated that books rife with stereotypes sell better than his own, more nuanced work. In protest, he writes his own stereotypical novel under a pen name. The book immediately sells and takes on a life of its own, leaving Monk to navigate the web of lies he’s spun.

Related: American Fiction PEOPLE Review: Jeffrey Wright Is Brilliant in Hot-Button Comedy About a Black Novelist

The film, directed by Cord Jefferson and nominated for five Oscars this year, including Best Picture, presents a satirical look at the publishing industry and literary world. Wright said that the movie reaches an even larger audience than book aficionados, serving as a “springboard” for a larger conversation about representation.

“We want to be authentic to ourselves," he said. "We want to be as free creatively, intellectually as we possibly can be, and move through the world in that way.”

<p>Claire Folger</p> Jeffrey Wright in 'American Fiction'

Claire Folger

Jeffrey Wright in 'American Fiction'

“So the film, I think, has a universal appeal,” he continued. “It's not just limited to the publishing world and it's not just limited to the Black experience. We wanted to make a film that would touch people across backgrounds, across borders, and I think we have.”

Related: Jeffrey Wright Tells Onscreen Mom Leslie Uggams: 'I've Had a Crush on You Since the First Day I Saw You'

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Wright, who has previously appeared in television shows like Westworld, and who holds an Emmy Award for his role in the HBO miniseries Angels in America, is seeing his first Academy Award nomination with American Fiction. He previously told PEOPLE about the moment he received the news.

"There was reams of texts and phone calls and well wishing, and it was pretty moving,” he said.

The 96th Academy Awards will air on Sunday, March 10 at 7 p.m. ET.

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