Boris Kodjoe Reflects On The Role Of A Lifetime
On April 15th, 2008 actor Boris Kodjoe took over the role of 'Brick' for a short time in the current revival of Tennessee Williams' Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. Here, he talks to BroadwayWorld.com about his experiences working on the show, the advantages of Broadway to Hollywood, and how 'Brick' has changed him forever.
Faetra Petillo: Congratulations on becoming the part of this cast- this is your Broadway debut- am I correct?
Boris Kodjoe: Yes, it is.
FP: How did you start out your career? I read that you were a model and a marketing student before you started acting?
BK: I came to the states about fourteen years ago to study marketing, and the modeling thing happened by accident. I was walking down the street right around here and somebody stopped me. The acting thing happened after that. I had to start taking classes to lose my accent and then I moved out to Los Angeles and started the 'Soul Food' series and things happened from there.
FP: What to you has been the most difficult part about doing this show and playing such a complex character? What have you discovered about Brick that you love?
BK: I love the fact that he is multi-layered. I love the fact that he is trying to find outlets for his pain because he can't get redemption- his friend is dead and he can't go back. He's by himself in this hole and there is no way out- alcohol is his only way out. I love that he is tortured without being self-pitying. It's very easy to go from torture to having a pity party but all he really wants is to be left alone. I mean that is his goal- to get the 'click' and that's it- and I love that multi-faceted part of him. In my situation the most difficult part was coming in two or three weeks after they had started rehearsals. I had to learn the steps and find my way and then get to the point where I could create and be free. It's tough to do what I did because the rest of the cast had already been dancing for three weeks so they knew a little more about where they were and all the blocking and things like that that I had to learn.
FP: How long did you actually have between when you were brought in and your first live performance?
BK: I had two days with the cast and a week and a half with the auditions.
FP: Wow. You are leaving on May 5th. Is it going to be hard for you to leave or do you enjoy doing shorter runs?
BK: It's going to be really hard because I love this play and I love these people. This is one of those roles that was on the top of my list. Any male actor dreams to play 'Brick' so it's a dream come true and I'll definitely be sad when I leave. It's also a lot of work—it's hard to go out there eight times a week and give 120%- because that's what you want to give. You can't take a night off and within the play you can't take a minute off. That's the great thing about theater- you have to be ever present. So it's going to be bittersweet.
FP: This is the first time that Cat On A Hot Tin Roof has been performed on Broadway with an African-American cast. Do you find it is significant at all or is it kind of a moot point?
BK: I think it's a completely moot point. I think the fact that it's an all black cast is only important in a historic sense. That's it. When people talk about it, they don't really even mention it which I think is great. One sort of quiet advantage of being in an all African-American cast is that we've attracted an audience that has been under served and an audience that doesn't get to see a lot of plays like this on Broadway. That's the only way to really bring it up in advantageous context because other than that, it's about a family. I think it's one of those renditions that is colorful and closer to what Tennessee Williams actually envisioned when he wrote it. I'm proud to be part of it.
FP: Do you think this role has changed you as an actor?
BK: Definitely. In Hollywood you get offered the same parts over and over again and I was always the handsome boyfriend and I never really got to play a character even close to 'Brick'. It's nice because I have the confidence to know that I can do anything now. Because this is the Wimbledon Finals, this is the Super Bowl. The response has been great, and it's given me a lot of confidence and equipped me to do anything.
FP: What do you think to you the most important theme is Williams explores in this show?
BK: I think it's a bunch of things. It's honesty, it's tolerance, it's love, it's family, it's forgiveness. And also the fact that it's never too late. It taught me a lot about my relationship with my father which is eerily close to what I'm playing. I also like the ambiguity of not knowing what happens in the end. I love that because every person out there gets something different out of it and identifies with something different. It's a very personal experience and when you leave the theater you share your experience with other people and you discover things you didn't even think of when you were watching it. It's a great piece to walk away from and keep learning and noticing things about.
FP: What is next for you? Are you staying in New York to do more theater or going back to film?
BK: I'm always switching it up between film and TV and theater. I'm taking ten days off and then I'm going up to Boston to film 'Surrogates' with Bruce Willis. It's a blockbuster/Disney/science fiction piece which is the opposite of what I'm doing now and I love that. It's always been my dream to be able to switch things up like this.
FP: So has your experience on Broadway been good enough that you would come back?
BK: Oh, absolutely- in a hot second!
Boris will playing 'Brick' at the Broadhurst Theater through May 5th, 2008. Terrence Howard will return to the role on May 6, 2008. Tickets are currently being sold through June 22. More ticket information can be found at www.telecharge.com or 212-239-6200. In addition please visit the CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF web site at www.cat2008onBroadway.com