With Da 5 Bloods currently making its way through awards season, Delroy Lindo took the time to join us for an episode of Collider Connected. While we did spend a good chunk of the interview discussing his phenomenal, award-worthy performance in Spike Lee’s latest, Collider Connected also gives us the opportunity to retrace someone’s steps in the industry in an effort to get a clearer sense of how they’ve honed their craft and scored their latest achievement. Lindo was gracious enough to share many key memories from the early days of his career, but I’m always especially fascinated to hear about the challenge of saying “no” in an industry where “making it” is largely viewed as a one in a million pipe dream.
When you’re first beginning your career with those hopes and dreams in mind, how do you say no to a gig when those opportunities are so hard to come by? On the one hand, you need to gain experience and build a resume, but on the other, it’s import for that resume to reflect the roles and projects that really speak to you. While discussing finding a balance between the two, Lindo highlighted one particular instance when he said no to a project, baffling those involved. He began:
“In the mid 1980s, I had an extraordinary creative period in the theater. I went to the Kennedy Center, the Eisenhower Theater in DC as part of the Kennedy Center, with a production of A Raisin in the Sun. I was playing Walter Lee in A Raisin in the Sun, one of the great parts. It was an extremely successful production. As a result of the success of that production, we took the production to Los Angeles and we played at the Wilshire Theatre on Wilshire avenue. Again, very, very successful. As a result of that, I went in and auditioned and received an offer to play a part in a TV show that was just starting at the time called Beauty and the Beast.”
This Beauty and the Beast show kicked of in 1987 and ran for three seasons. It was an adaptation of the fairy tale that featured Ron Perlman as “the beast” character and Linda Hamilton as the show’s “beauty,” Catherine Chandler, an assault victim who’s recused by Perlman and goes on to become an assistant District Attorney in New York. Lindo continued:
“So I got this part in Beauty and the Beast, and I did the first episode – or I did an episode. I think it was the pilot episode. But then after doing Walter Lee in the theater, I then went to do a play called Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, a brilliant, brilliant, brilliant play by August Wilson. So I had this experience of doing Walter Lee Younger in the theater, then I did this TV show, this pilot, then I did Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. In the theater I was being challenged to do these great, great parts. The character I played in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, his name is Herald Loomis. [It’s] about a man looking for his wife, and by extension, the play is about African descended people looking for themselves in America.”
After doing two regional productions of Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, Lindo got the opportunity to audition for another screen project, and that experience wound up putting things into perspective for Lindo quite a bit.
“I then got an opportunity to audition in Los Angels for a film that Nick Nolte was doing, and I can’t remember the name of the film. But I auditioned in New York for this film, they flew me out to Los Angeles for a callback audition. It was a bizarre experience. It was just bizarre. We don’t have time to go into it, but it was just a really bizarre. I didn’t get the part and I remember sitting on the plane, flying back to New York thinking about this audition that I had done; ‘What was that?’ I was just, ‘What was that?’ But what saved me was that I was going to do another production of Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. I had that.”
At that point, in comes a phone call from Beauty and the Beast producer Ron Koslow.
“Ron wanted me to come back and do another episode of Beauty and the Beast, and the timeline conflicted with my commitment to go and do the following production of Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, and I said no. And he could not understand it. I said, ‘Ron, I can’t.’ Ron Koslow had been very, very gracious towards me. He wanted me to come back and do this episode, and as I weighed the creative dividend of going to do another episode of Beauty and the Beast compared to the creative dividend of doing Herald Loomis in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, there simply was no comparison. So I turned down going back to do another episode of Beauty and the Beast. I stayed with the production of Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, which ended up going to Broadway. Spike Lee saw me on Broadway in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, which started the relationship between myself and Spike.”
If the fact that Lindo’s work in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone sparked that working relationship with Lee isn’t enough proof that Lindo made the right choice, know that his work in that project also scored him a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Play.
If you’d like to hear more from Lindo on his early days focusing on theater, why he went “uncredited” in The Devil’s Advocate, his experience working on Da 5 Bloods and more, you can catch our full Collider Connected conversation in the video at the top of this article.
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