Director-star Denzel Washington along with Viola Davis and the entire key cast of the new film version of Fences lit up the Paramount Pictures panel at last month’s big awards-season event, our sixth annual The Contenders Presented By Deadline. The all-day event at the DGA theater saw Oscar and key guild voters give a standing ovation to the cast when I introduced them after an extended eight-minute clip from the film was shown.

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Washington, who is also one of the producers along with Scott Rudin and Todd Black, told the industry crowd that August Wilson’s Fences is the best piece of material he has ever worked with. He and Davis and most of these cast members — including Stephen Henderson, Mykelti Williamson and Russell Hornsby — had all done the play together on Broadway in the Tony-winning 2010 revival that also won Tonys for Washington and Davis, who discussed the difference between playing it on stage and now on film. (The movie was just named by the AFI as one of the top 10 films of 2016.)

Williamson talks about working opposite his director, while Henderson mentioned the advantage of being able to shoot in Pittsburgh, home of the playwright. Washington also talks about the casting process with the two young actors in the film, Saniyya Sidney and Jovan Adepo, who charmed the audience with their own stories of how they joined this august production that Paramount releases in select theaters December 16 before going wide Christmas Day.

Check out our conversation above.