It’s probably possible to spend an entire decade discussing Bill Cosby, the comedy legend who was eventually revealed to be a serial predator. For We Need to Talk About Cosby, director W. Kamau Bell got four hours. “Showtime was great about giving us every minute they could, to let us push it as far as we could. Some of these episodes are like 59:59,” he tells Consequence in a Zoom interview.
Bell, who also currently hosts CNN’s United Shades of America, brought his insight as a comedian who grew up as a “child of Bill Cosby,” as well as his experience working in documentary television, to the four-part series, which premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival before its Showtime debut.
The series tracks the entirety of Cosby’s career, putting into context the importance of the strides he made as a Black entertainer in a very white industry, while also telling the stories of multiple survivors of Cosby’s assaults. By bringing a personal perspective to the material, Bell manages to capture not just what Cosby did to countless women, but the impact these revelations had on one-time fans who had been raised to believe fully in Cosby’s wholesome image.
It’s a lot to cover, and in the interview below, transcribed and edited for clarity, Bell reveals the journey behind making Cosby, from its original conception to picking the right interview subjects to capturing the moment when, midway through production on the documentary, Cosby’s conviction for sexual assault was overturned. He also explains why he wouldn’t necessarily do a direct sequel to the series, but how he hopes to continue evolving this conversation.