TV - Movies
Sidney Poitier
Agreed To Be In The
Heat Of The Night
Only After One
Major Change
By MIKE WORBY
Sidney Poitier was one of the first major black stars to break into mainstream success during and after the Civil Rights era of the 1960s. In his illustrious career, the role of detective Virgil Tibbs in “In The Heat Of The Night” is one of his most memorable but Poitier only agreed to take on the role after a critical change was made to the script.
In the scene where Mr. Endicott slaps Tibbs for even having the audacity to question him in a murder case, the original script had Tibbs keeping his cool after the assault, but Poitier thought that was the wrong message to send at the time. "If [Endicott] slaps me, I'm going to slap him back," Poitier recalled in a 2013 interview.
Poitier knew his kind of cachet and talent as a performer, and the studio agreed to his demands. Considering the many racially charged issues that were raging during the 1960s and how "In the Heat of the Night" challenged black stereotypes and racism so directly, it's easy to see Poitier's point and why he wanted his character to stand up for what's right rather than being compliant.