NASHVILLE, TN — The Nashville Rep is currently featuring a run of A Raisin in the Sun until April 15, 2017. Written by Lorraine Hansberry, this play is an American classic that first appeared on Broadway in 1959. The insightful play made an immediate historical impact – being the first play written by an African American woman to be produced on Broadway. Former Tennessee Titan, now successful actor Eddie George, plays the pivotal role of ‘Walter Lee.’
The role of Walter Lee has been performed on stage and screen by notable actors such as Sidney Poitier, Ossie Davis, Danny Glover, Denzel Washington, and Sean “Puffy” Combs. George has previously performed with Nashville Rep in The Whipping Man in 2015, has done shows with numerous other Nashville theatres, and recently appeared as Billy Flynn in Chicago on Broadway.
Here, Eddie George answers 5 Questions about being an actor and his role as ‘Walter Lee.’
TRIBUNE: There have been so many prominent actors, who have played the role of Walter Lee. Did you study how they portrayed him or did you just go strictly on your own of how you wanted to play him? EG: “Well, I’m very aware of who played Walter Lee in the past. I saw the production in New York City when Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs did it on Broadway, and I also saw the movie with Sidney Poitier. So, to prepare for this role, I did not look at anybody else’s work of interpretation of Walter Lee. I really wanted to come to this with a very fresh perspective. Because the danger is, and the temptation is, to look at a lot of those performances and say, ‘Okay, I can try this here,’ but you don’t know what’s going on internally in terms of thinking in those moments. So, no, I did not look at anybody else’s work.”
TRIBUNE: Why do you think ‘A Raisin in The Sun’ continues to be such a much-loved production? EG: “It’s very multi-layered play and that’s why it’s timeless. You can take this same story and put it in today’s world, and you’re going to find that same thing, the same struggles, the same ideas, the same classes of what we think is success in our household, and how we all want more for everyone. We all operate out of love, but what we’re witnessing is somebody who is not in sequence, and really out of balance in terms of his ambition, and the people that he’s in relationship with.”
TRIBUNE: Are there any similarities for you in preparing for a football game and preparing for an acting role? EG: “Oh yes, no question. As an athlete, you’ve still got to get your rest, you’ve got to eat properly, you’ve got to work out physically, emotionally, to prepare for any role. The approach is still the same, staying in the script, there’s a great deal of movement and athleticism that you have to do within the play, and there’s a level of connection that you have to have with the other actors, similar to the connection you have with your teammates. It’s the same thing here. You’re setting up the other actors, giving them the key words, and giving them true, raw emotion for them to play off of. So, it’s very similar across the board.”
TRIBUNE: What was the adrenaline like when you made your debut on Broadway as “Billy Flynn” and you were actually singing?
EG: “It was so intense and intimidating. I mean, I’d done stuff before, but I’d never done a musical, and of all places, to go and have a Broadway debut in a musical. It was nerve-wracking, I couldn’t wait for curtain call. So much work went into it. It’s was a year and a half of work. I’m glad that it paid off. Overall, I had fun doing it.
TRIBUNE: Does that mean one day there might be an Eddie George the recording artist project? EG: “Probably not. (he laughs) There’s a ninety-nine-point eight percent chance of that not happening, but I don’t know. God surprises me, and that could be something – who knows? I don’t know, but I don’t see that happening for me one day being a recording artist.”
Tickets can be purchased online at nashvillerep.org or by calling the Box Office at 615-782-4040.