Interview: Charlie Bryant III Talks HAIRSPRAY at Old National Centre

Hairspray plays the Old National Centre February 21st through the 26th.

Hairspray (Non-Equity)

We had the pleasure of speaking to Charlie Bryant III who plays Seaweed J. Stubbs in the current tour of HAIRSPRAY. He shared his thoughts and insights about the current tour and his personal take on what makes this show so special.

We are always curious to know how an actor came into their role, and Charlie's story is definitely a whirlwind. He went from audition to callback to rehearsals all in a matter of days. This marks his National Tour Debut, so needless to say he's been thrown into the action headfirst. He is very humble about his achievement, stating very simply that he saw the audition notice, submitted, "and the rest is kind of history."

Since it's his first tour experience, we asked what makes this touring group special. He is adamant that "everyone welcomes each other with open arms" and they are always there for anyone "needing that extra push or that extra comfort." It's clear that the cast and team work not just with each other but for each other, which is sure to have a strong positive impact on the show as a whole.

Crafting a character takes plenty of research and thought, especially when audience members may be influenced by film portrayals of characters, as is the case for HAIRSPRAY. Charlie didn't let that intimidate him or stop him from making the character his own. He has actually played Seaweed before, "but even then, I would think of Seaweed as myself." James Brown has also played a part in his character development, especially "how he makes up these dance moves off the top of his head." But at the core of it, "I just see Seaweed as myself, that's how I just see Seaweed, as just that normal black guy."

Of course, playing Seaweed comes with its own unique challenges. There's the obvious intense stamina necessary for all of the singing and dancing, but Charlie also works hard to bear in mind the historical context for his character. "We're telling the story of what was once the 60s, and segregation was a thing. Going into this character every night, I have to make sure I am present in this moment and not forget that this was once a thing." It's important for him to bring the weight of that reality to the show and balance it with the fun and laughter to create a thought-provoking experience for audience members.

HAIRSPRAY has plenty of songs full of rollicking melodies and catchy phrases, but there are heavy themes, too. Racism is a very present and obvious problem in the context of the show, and we wanted to know Charlie's thoughts on how this can resonate with today's audiences. "It's that constant battle that we in the US deal with today, acceptance, and bringing everyone together, and we shouldn't all be separated. We're all human at the end of the day; we can all dance on TV together. Why is that so hard to understand?" In the end, the fight against racism isn't over, and it's important to take those moments that resonate and turn them into thoughts that lead into actions.

We asked for any final thoughts from Charlie Bryant III, and he wants audience members to know that, when you come to this show, you're experiencing a top-quality performance. "You're seeing it in your town. You don't have to go to Broadway to see it."

So theater-goers of Indianapolis, take note and don't miss out on your chance to see HAIRSPRAY. It's coming to the Old National Centre February 21st through the 26th. Come see why you can't stop the beat!


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