Wendell Pierce, First Black Willie Loman in ‘Death of a Salesman’

Wendell Pierce begins previewing a performance of “Death of a Salesman” on September 17 at the Hudson Theater at 141 W 44th St. He is the first Black McToron to be cast on Broadway in the role of Willie Loman in Arthur Miller’s classic play. Anyone who has seen Pierce’s work, whether on stage in “The Piano Lesson” or on television in “The Wire,” “Treme” and others, has seen the depth of his abilities. A very polite Pierce took time before attending rehearsals for a Broadway production, in New York, to talk about performing the play, a role he originally played at the Young Vic Theater in London’s West End and best known for his Received an Olivier nomination for Actor. It was exciting to talk to Pierce as he vividly describes his journey in this Q&A.

mnewsQ: As a black actor, what’s it like to play Willie Loman?

wp: It’s one of the great roles of the American canon, it’s a classic. It’s one of the most challenging roles, I call it American Hamlet. From the technical impact of an actor, it is like climbing Mount Everest, it is a big challenge and I am looking forward to it. And from the other side I think of all the people who inspired me to become an actor, who paved the way for me—Ossie Davis, Roscoe Lee Brown, Earl Hyman—I think of all of them and they How was he denied this opportunity to play the role, because of ignorance, a mindset that a black man couldn’t imagine playing the role, and so I do it in his honor. I’m also honored to be in that small group of men who played roles on Broadway, only five—George C. Scott, Lee J. Cobbs, Dustin Hoffman, Brian Dennehy, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, and now I, so this one Great respect and I feel a great obligation to those who were denied the opportunity, to step up to the plate and do my best, which inspires me every night.

mnews: You played Willie Loman in London’s West End at the Young Vic and was nominated for Best Actor. What was your approach to the role in the West End production, and has that approach changed as the show moved to New York?

wp: The only difference is that we have different actors, we have American actors who have taken over certain roles. It’s a different thing to be on stage with Broadway icon Andre de Shields. That’s all the difference and what he does is refocus you and [not] Hoping to do the same thing. I hope to do what is true and what we create together is true. There’s a continuity in the play itself that’s helpful, that guidepost, The North Star, which leads us to something we built three years ago in London, that we’ll recreate and still have the same effect here in New York. hopefully . You rely on good work and good work being the chemistry you create together, understanding the ingredients and then letting that world come together and influence your behavior. So the only difference is, different people, but the way of working is the same.

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mnews: What is it that you want viewers to know about Willie Loman?

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