Though his first love is the stage, the NAACP Lifetime Achievement Theatre Award Honoree nearly didn’t make it into the show’s cast. But as Santiago-Hudson tells Broadway.com, a unexpected exit from Castle and a late phone call landed him the role as Joe LeVay in writer Lydia R. Diamond’s new play.
Despite being in one of the leading roles, Santiago-Hudson came very close to not being cast because the offer wasn’t finalized. “About three weeks before we started rehearsal, I got a call from [director]Kenny [Leon] saying ‘I ain’t heard nothing from you about my offer!’ And I’m like, ‘Offer for what?’ I called my agent, who said he wasn’t going to bother me until it was official. So I read the script, I enjoy working with Kenny and it was an opportunity for me to land in a safe spot at home after coming off the Castle fiasco.” What Castle fiasco?
Apparently Santiago-Hudson isn’t thrilled with how his character exited the ABC series, which is now in its fourth season. The fiasco he is referring is “To get killed. To get called into the office and told, ‘We’re putting three bullets in you,’ when I’m like, ‘What did I do but come in and do my job?’ Man!” Certainly it’s a tough situation for your character to be “killed off” an ongoing television series after three seasons, but on the bright side it allowed him to return to Broadway. He reveals, “I was really delighted to land at home in New York with a wonderful cast and artistic staff in a really wonderful play that would be kinda groundbreaking for Broadway.”
Broadway is really the right place for Santiago-Hudson, and he notes the vast difference between appearing in a television series filmed in Los Angeles and on stage in New York. He mentions he enjoys watching scenes he isn’t in because of his love of acting, which seems out of the ordinary for television actor.
He explains that while on a set, “When they tell me my scene is next it will probably be an hour until they’re ready for me, and in a half hour I go to the set. I’m there. It’s funny, but to be an artist in L.A.—an artist like a stage actor—they’ll laugh at you because it’s not built on that. New York thrives on art and embraces artists. They laugh at me all the time in L.A.”
When he is asked which he prefers — television acting in Los Angeles or theater in New York — Santiago-Hudson confirms he has a clear favorite by pointing out, “I enjoy L.A., but I put it in perspective. I know what I’m there for: I’m there to make money. I’m there to do my job. I can do it quicker than anybody out there and when we come to the table read, I know my lines, man, because I’m saying 10 lines in a week! And some people look at me like, ‘Damn, how do you know all this stuff already?'” To help him with all that hard work, Santiago-Hudson reveals that he always abides by one piece of advice, recalling, “I think the most amazing advice is the simplest: Listen. Always listen.”
Stick Fly is currently running at the Cort Theatre.