James McBride's book and its Showtime series adaptation portray the heroic abolitionist as somewhat of a jerk and vain playboy. "That dude (McBride) is a force of nature," Diggs says of the role. "How about Deacon King Kong? It broke my brain. It’s so good." How did Diggs end up playing Douglass? "I was doing a Suzan-Lori Parks play called White Noise at the Public. And Ethan (Hawke) came inside, and the next day we went out to coffee and he handed me the novel and said, 'Hey, look, I’m doing this. I’m adapting this for television. Frederick Douglass will be in two episodes. One of them is his episode.' He’s like, 'Don’t answer now. Read the book, because it’s a particular take on Frederick Douglass.' And when I went home, I started reading the book and I could not put it down. I read it faster than ever. I’m a very slow reader. I think I read that book in two days and called him back."