Here’s a guide to the cast and characters of Spike Lee’s 1989 film Do The Right Thing. This critically acclaimed comedy/drama was Lee’s third film after 1986’s She’s Gotta Have It and School Daze. It was nominated for a slew of awards including a couple of Oscars, a few Golden Globes and the prestigious Palme d’Or at Cannes. Do The Right Thing is still regarded as a ground-breaking contribution to filmmaking today and is one of a handful of movies - alongside Goodfellas and Fargo - added to the National Film Registry as soon as it passed the ten-year waiting period required.
Do The Right Thing unfolds over the course of a hot summer day in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant. The plot focuses on pizza delivery man Mookie, his Italian American pizzeria owner boss Sal and a host of other residents as simmering racial tensions in the neighborhood come to a head. The film is part of what Lee calls his ‘Chronicles of Brooklyn’ which started with She’s Gotta Have It and also includes Crooklyn, Clockers and Red Hook Summer.
Part of what makes Do The Right Thing such a great film is its nuanced characters and the incredible ensemble that plays them. Here’s a quick guide to the key characters and the actors who brought them to life.
Mookie – Spike Lee
Mookie is a young black man who delivers pizzas for Sal’s Famous Pizzeria and tries to soothe tensions between his black friends and Italian American employer until things finally reach boiling point. He’s played by Spike Lee who briefly reprised the role in 2012's Red Hook Summer.
Sal – Danny Aiello
Sal is the brash owner of the pizzeria Mookie works at which he’s owned for 25 years and runs with his sons. Danny Aiello (Jacob's Ladder) received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his performance.
Buggin’ Out – Giancarlo Esposito
Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad) plays Buggin’ Out – a friend of Mookie who stages a boycott against Sal’s pizzeria after he notices there are no black people on the eatery’s wall of fame even though it’s in a black neighborhood.
Radio Raheem – Bill Nunn
Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn) is a neighborhood resident who is never seen without his boombox which is constantly blasting Public Enemy’s ‘Fight The Power.' He joins Buggin’ Out on his boycott of Sal’s pizzeria.
Pino – John Turturro
Played by John Turturro, Pino is Sal’s eldest son and a racist who isn’t happy about being one of the last Italians in a predominantly black neighborhood.
Vito – Richard Edson
Richard Edson plays Sal’s younger son Vito whose friendship with Mookie causes issues with his racist older brother.
Smiley – Roger Guenveur Smith
Smiley (Roger Guenveur Smith, All About The Benjamins) is a mentally disabled young man who wanders the neighborhood trying to sell people his hand-colored pictures of Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X.
Jade – Joie Lee
Jade is Mookie’s sister who he also lives with. She’s played by Spike Lee’s real-life sister and frequent collaborator Joie Lee.
Tina – Rosie Perez
Tina was Rosie Perez’s breakout role. She is Mookie’s girlfriend and the mother of his toddler-aged son Hector.
Mother Sister – Ruby Dee
Mother Sister (Ruby Dee) is the neighborhood matriarch who keeps a watchful eye on its residents from the window of her brownstone.