It turned out to be exactly that, but more challenging emotionally. I looked at it in a more physical way, having to act in a chair and move around. But it really was more emotionally challenging.
When my brother and me got into performing in the late '40s and early '50s, it was a sensational opportunity to learn from our elders. Every show we played had a dancer, a comic, a juggler, a singer, an acrobat. I came to appreciate virtuosity in all forms of the business.
I wanted to make a movie, because the whole life of the movies appealed to me. You work hard for three or four months, then you don't work at all for a couple of months.
I can remember feeling very angry, and saying no! I can do it myself! From that point of view it was very emotional for me to get myself to the point to sit in the chair and be 'up'.
My character had been in the chair for seven years. He had gone through his anger, depression, drug and alcohol abuse. He had gone through everything, now he was up, he was happy, he was filled with his dream.
I don't remember not dancing. When I realized I was alive and these were my parents, and I could walk and talk, I could dance.
I grew up in the '50s, a tough time for African Americans. I had friends whose fathers would openly say, 'Just bite your tongu;, don't cause any problems.' My father was not like that. Even in the toughest times racially, if somebody disrespected his family, they were in trouble.