We Need to Talk About Cosby makes its mission statement clear from the jump, serving as a pretty comprehensive documentary covering the career of Bill Cosby alongside the many, many accusations of sexual assault that he allegedly committed over the decades.
Directed by W. Kamau Bell, the four-part series, set to debut soon on Showtime, features a wide range of voices as interview subjects, including comedians, former Cosby colleagues, survivors of his assaults, and experts from a variety of fields.
Not included as an interview subject is comedian Hannibal Buress, who has been acknowledged frequently as one of the reasons why the Cosby allegations, despite having been reported for years, finally broke into the public consciousness. Buress didn’t necessarily plan for that to happen, though — the news spread after his October 2014 stand-up show was filmed by an audience member and posted online, subsequently going viral.
As We Need to Talk About Cosby tracks, there was more than one catalyst for Cosby’s descent from grace, but Buress is often associated with the turn of events. And, in a recent Zoom interview with Consequence, Bell confirms that Buress was approached about appearing in the doc as an interview subject.
“I am friendly with Hannibal — I want to be clear, I wouldn’t mark us as the best of friends, but I really love Hannibal and his work, and of course, I reached out to him, and I think I understood when he said no,” he says.
As Bell continues, “Hannibal has never wanted to make this a part of his career. He’s never been excited about talking about this. He has talked about it as much as he feels like he needs to talk about it, but it’s not something that he wants to make a defining part of his career, so I think he feels like, ‘There’s no reason for me to do this.'”
Bell goes on to note how Buress has handled this turn of events: “I think if you think about it, for some comedians, this would have been a career move. They would have gone on tour under this umbrella. But for Hannibal, you look at the work he’s done since this all came down, none of it is about this. It is all about the kind of jokes that Hannibal does, which are like these little word puzzles and amazing experiences and crazy wacky situations he gets into. It is not about this.”
Thus, Bell says, “when he said no, I understood where it came from. I would have loved to talk to him, but I got it. This has never been a thing he wanted to talk about.”
Consequence’s full interview with Bell will run soon. Having made its debut at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the series premieres Sunday, January 30th at 10:00 p.m. ET on Showtime.