Corey Hawkins: “I grew up a theater nerd”

Actor Corey Hawkins

“The fun of it and the challenge of it is to take the play — to take the text — and make it your own, to find it your own way” – Corey Hawkins on Theater

Actor Corey Hawkins has the distinction of appearing on television (24: Legacy), in film (Kong: Skull Island), and on Broadway (Six Degrees of Separation)… and that’s all within the first five months of 2017. What more, Hawkins was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance in the revival of Six Degrees of Separation as the quizzical Paul. Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter in the magazine’s Tony nominee roundtable, Hawkins speaks about why he returned to Broadway during his big-screen and small-screen success and the importance of approaching his character from a new angle.

Despite the fact that Hawkins’ career is taking off on television and film, he decided to return to Broadway because of the character he plays in Six Degrees of Separation and the opportunity to continue to grow as an actor. He explains, “I grew up a theater nerd — I actually grew up singing in the church first, that was my first love — and then in high school I was in musical theater and then, of course, they cut it due to funding, and then I ended up going into straight theater at Duke Ellington School of the Arts in D.C. I just think there’s something about coming back to the stage, man, just sharpening that tool and keeping that muscle firing, you know what I mean? And this character is one of those that’s sort of like a gymnast or an acrobat or an athlete — like, he’s a different guy in every scene — and I just thought it would be fun to do that right after coming off of a TV show. Fun, or scary as hell, and why not do it if you know if it scares you? So I just wanted to challenge myself and see where it took me, and I feel like a lucky guy.”

The interviewer points out to Hawkins that he is playing a role that was played in the original Broadway production by Courtney B. Vance and played by Will Smith in the film version. When asked if that affects the way he approaches the role, Hawkins responds, “The fun of it and the challenge of it is to take the play — to take the text — and make it your own, to find it your own way.” He continues, “It’s like jazz — you take it and you lift it and each character’s an instrument. You just kind of bring your own thing to it and every night. People have been asking me, ‘Who is Paul Poitier, who is Paul Kittredge or whatever he calls himself?’ If I had the answer to that, I wouldn’t be able to get up there and do it every night because it’s different every single day on the stage and it surprises me. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.”

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