'Westworld' Actor Jeffrey Wright Loves Surfing, Talks Racial Stigma in the Lineup

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In between shoots of HBO’s hit dystopian series Westworld, costars Jeffrey Wright and Luke Hemsworth – who, spoiler alert, both play cyborgs – would flee from set, drive an hour to the beach, surf, then rush back to work. Salty, sunburned, and stoked.

“Even if I could get just 45 minutes in the water,” Wright told GQ in a new feature about the actor’s surfing obsession, “I would get down here every day that I could.”

And although he picked it up later in life, as opposed to Hemsworth who comes from a surfing family, Wright’s love affair with surfing runs deep. He even took lessons from the late Montgomery Kaluhiokalani, aka “Buttons,” and he opened up about that, along with the experience of being a black man in a predominantly white man’s pastime.

In a post on social media following the GQ article, the Oscar-nominated actor for his role in American Fiction (2023) expounded on his passion for surfing:

“I’ve loved ocean & waves for as long as I can remember. Used to skate as a kid - kinda religiously - ‘til I broke a leg riding in a skatepark pool one Summer when I was 14. Couldn’t play football the following Fall, so decided to put the boards down to avoid more disruption.

“I found surfing 12 years ago (with help from my daughter), while on vacation on Kauai. Took a few lessons with her and my son. Later that year, I went back to HI for a month to the North Shore of Oahu to film the Hunger Games - Catching Fire. Took a couple more lessons then bought my first board and started going out by myself. One day out at Chun’s, I saw Buttons. He threw me a shaka. To myself: ‘Who’s the brotha with the fro?’ Later, someone told me who he was.

“I left the North Shore but came back for a couple weeks the following year to finish Catching Fire. I sought out Buttons and took more lessons from him. We kinda vibed. How could you not with Buttons? He was Buttons. He’d been thru some stuff by then but was pushing forward. We talked about things - one was surfers who didn’t fit The Beach Boys mold that most people think of when they think of surfers. Buttons was one of those - and a purest shreddah, flowed like water.

“When I was a kid, I used to do Berts on my skateboard. Named after Larry Bertlemann. Always thought, back then, that Bertleman was a blond dude from Santa Monica or somewhere. Nope. Brah had a fro that would make Angela Davis smile. Anyway. Buttons’ body succumbed to cancer less than a year after he said those words to me. So quick. I’d hoped to paddle out with him many more times. Life. But I remember. True legend.”

So, next time you see Wright on the silver screen – like in the upcoming sequel to 2022’s The Batman – he might still have sand in his hair from a surf session earlier that day.

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