BWW Interview: NFL Legend and Broadway Star Eddie George Talks CHICAGO
It's the roaring '20s and Roxie Hart, an unenthusiastic housewife and C-list vaudevillian performer who puts the "anti" in anti-heroine, has murdered her lover in cold blood. Now, she's looking to beat the case. In saunters Billy Flynn, a corrupt, smooth-talking defense lawyer experienced in playing the press like a violin. We're in Chicago, the Tony and Grammy award-winning musical by Fred Ebb (book and lyrics) and Bob Fosse (book), and John Kander (music).
Society for the Performing Arts (SPA) hosts the Chicago national tour at Jones Hall, June 4-9, 2019. And Eddie George, NFL legend and Broadway star, plays Billy Flynn. Recently, George sat down with BroadwayWorld to talk about his character and his craft.
BroadwayWorld: To start with, tell me about your character, Billy Flynn.
Eddie George: Billy Flynn is the slick lawyer in the courtroom. He's helping Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart get off their cases, trying to change their murder into sensationalized headlines. I play the bad guy.
BroadwayWorld: Is he the bad guy? I find him so likable.
Eddie George: Yeah, he's a likeable bad guy.
BroadwayWorld: [Laughs] I don't want Roxie to go to jail. I know that's wrong, but that's one of the points of the musical, right?
Eddie George: Yes, this is a great piece. It's a timeless piece.
BroadwayWorld: Tell me about the process of creating your role.
Eddie George: It's really about finding out who he is-- what he says about himself and what the writers [Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse] say about him. Then I make a backstory based on this information. I like to make him a whole human being prior to stepping on stage. How does he feel from moment-to-moment from beat to beat? How does he interact with the other characters on stage? I get a better understanding of what's going and I try to go for fresh, new ideas. I try to keep it fresh every day.
BroadwayWorld: Now stick with me, the next question is long. I would think a production like Chicago, where you have to dance, sing, could make your life harder and easier as a performer. By harder I mean, you have to be a triple-threat. And by easier, I mean, you have three avenues to get to the core of your character. Does that make any sense?
Eddie George: Yes it does.
BroadwayWorld: Does it have any truth to it?
Eddie George: It does because you do have different avenues to express yourself and to tell the story in a completely different way. But to have those three elements, you've got to be equally good in all three. One can't be better or more important than the other. I think they all have to have the same level of integrity and quality and attention to detail or else the story will get lost. [The overemphasized element] becomes a distraction versus pushing the story forward. It's difficult, but once you get it underneath you, it really becomes a part of you and it becomes a little bit easier.
BroadwayWorld: It seems like with so much to do you almost can't help but stay in character.
Eddie George: It's like patting your head and rubbing your stomach at once. [Laughs] There's so much to focus on but, again, once you do it a few times, you tend to relax a little and it becomes your own.
BroadwayWorld: Everybody knows everything about Chicago. What's new to discover about the musical in this production?
Eddie George: Phew! It's the new discoveries and why I'm saying what I'm saying. Or my different intention. Or the way I interact with Roxie [Dylis Croman] to motivate her. To get her to do what I need her to do in terms of her getting off the case and so forth. It's always something I'm searching for -- how I can say something differently or have a different perspective on it or try to get her to do something in a different way? So my motivation with her in terms of making her perform an action or move in a certain way changes. So one night, I can try to manipulate her, or try to inspire her, or try to degrade her, or break her down. It all depends on what I choose to do in that moment and what's given to me as well.
BroadwayWorld: So each show is new because each performance is different. That's the beauty of theatre right?
Eddie George: Yes.
BroadwayWorld: You never know what's going to happen on any given night and, if you miss it, you can't go back to it. And if it's great, you just have to keep it in your memory.
Eddie George: Exactly. You remember it, keep it, hold it and allow yourself to get lost in it.
CHICAGO. Presented by Society for the Performing Arts. June 4-9, 2019. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, 615 Louisiana Street. For information, please call 713-227-4772 or visit spahouston.org. Tickets start at $35.