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T.J. Martin was nominated for Hollywood’s highest award. If he wins, he would become the first African American to win an Academy Award as director for best documentary.

Kam Williams | 2/8/2012, 8:42 a.m.
T.J. Martin (L) and Daniel Lindsay (R) directed the Academy Award-nominated documentary “Undefeated” . Dimensional Films

I was always impressed at how Bill treated the students with respect and spoke to them like young adults and not like they were little kids. He didn’t assume they would respect him simply because he’s an adult. He put in the time and effort and earned that trust and respect from the students as well as the community.

Do you think he’s had an effect on his players as a role model that will last long past their playing days?

Absolutely! Good coaches often become surrogate parental figures and can be very influential, especially during the adolescent years. One thing that stood out to us that is not seen in the film much is how often Bill would hug his players and tell them that he loved them.

This would happen every day to just about every single player on the team. There’s no doubt that when Bill takes the time to share that level of intimacy and respect with his players, it has a positive, long-lasting effect.

What message do you hope people will take away from the movie?

We set out to make an intimate, coming-of-age film that is, more than anything, a human interest piece. With that said, we never shy away from the race and class dynamics that are very prevalent in the film.

I would hope that after being emotionally drawn into the human aspect of the story, the film can inspire a greater dialogue about the serious divide between the haves and have nots in this country, as well as looking at the ties between race and class and how they affect each other.

How do you feel about the possibility of becoming the first black director to win an Academy Award?

First and foremost, I’m extremely honored for such recognition. At the same time, I would have a hard time claiming such an achievement since I’m half black. My experience navigating the world is night and day different than that of someone whose parents are both black.

I personally identify much more with being mixed race. It would be hard for me to accept such an achievement without also acknowledging my Native American, Scandinavian, Chinese and Jewish roots as well! I definitely think it warrants a greater conversation. I wonder if there’s some kind of designation for being the first mixed-race director to win for best documentary? Probably not.

Is there any question no one ever asks you that you wish someone would?

Do you identify as being black?

Are you happy?

Good question. I’m not sure I can quantify happiness.

When was the last time you had a good laugh?

When I saw that I was nominated for an Academy Award.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

Not sure I can put it in print.

What was the last book you read?

“Norwegian Wood” by Haruki Murakami.

The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to?

Can’t answer it. I have music playing all of the time. It’s continuous.