“The third,” huh? I use it to honor my father and my grandfather. They were big role models in my life. They’ve both passed away. My dad died about 14 months ago. They taught me how to be a man, how to overcome obstacles because they both had a lot of those.
What were some of the struggles? My grandfather came to Chicago from the South during the Great Migration. So he came and drove a cab here until he was eventually able to open his own auto body shop on the South Side, Fleming Auto Parts. He was a mechanic. He had two kids, my auntie and my father, who struggled with his health for most of my life. He got kidney disease in 1984, which led to a slew of other problems. He definitely showed me what it is to be a man and raise a family.
And you have a family? My wife, Catherine, and I have a son, Hunter.
I’m guessing you’re a bike messenger? I used to be, for eight years. I stopped about three years ago. Now I’m a full-time theater actor, a company member with Lookingglass. Separately, I just got off a tour of August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which is set in Chicago. I played Levee, who was in Ma Rainey’s band. He was bringing a more up-tempo jazz into blues at the time, and it’s sort of about Rainey and other blues artists resisting that. The older guys in the band are trying to tell Levee about change and struggle and how it doesn’t always happen when you want it to happen.
Are there any white lies you tell to get by as an actor? I think fibbing is human nature. It’s like, “Can you dance?” “Of course!” Then I run out and get Dancing for Dummies.
Does the Mohawk limit how you can be cast? I’ll shave it off if I have to. I started wearing it four years ago when I was doing Lookingglass Alice. It’s the last hairstyle my dad saw me in, and he really dug it.