stars Denzel Washington and Viola Davis opened up to ET about the honor of immortalizing August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece on film.
"August Wilson had a vision to chronicle every decade of life in a century for African-Americans. He completed it before he passed, but this was also his final vision and dream," Davis said of the movie at the New York City premiere on Monday. "I feel like I'm contributing to it in some way."
Fences marked the sixth piece in Wilson's 10-part "Century Cycle," in which each play featured black characters in a different decade of the 20th century.
Set in the 1950s, Fences follows mid-century Pittsburgh sanitation worker, Troy Maxson, who once dreamed of a baseball career, but was too old for the major leagues when they began admitting black players. Now a husband and father, Maxson's dashed dreams eat away at him and lead to a decision that threatens to tear his family apart.
"It's a family story," Washington, who also directed the film, told ET. "There's something in it for all of us."
In 2010, Washington and Davis performed the play for 13 weeks on Broadway. The production won Tony Awards for Best Revival as well as the individual performances by Washington and Davis. All the hours spent living inside the roles on stage made it easier for the stars to slip back into their characters six years later and it also simplified Washington's job as the director.
"We had it in our belly, we had it in our souls," Washington said. "My job was to make sure we went back to the beginning and just support the actors and tell the story."
Washington, already a two-time Oscar winner, could be up for another Academy Award for his performance, and he revealed to ET earlier this month that he also once worked as a garbage man.
"I had this old 60-year-old jack working with me, and I'm just snatching cans like, 'I'm a young buck. He can't keep up with me!'" Washington recalled. "The next day I couldn't close my hands [because of] my forearms. He said, 'How you doing, youngster?' I was like, 'I'm fine.' He was like, 'Yeah, OK.'"
Fences hits theaters Christmas Day.