Ray Ford's Hollywood Takeover Starts Now
11 months ago
The co-star of 'Don't Trust the B---- in Apt 23' is making a splash in Hollywood, and he may just be getting started
Theater critics rarely seem to ever love modern interpretations of Shakespeare's great tragedies, and it’s in this vain that the critic and playwright David Dewitt’s 2004 review of King Lear at the Yale Repertory Theater is pretty routine. Directed by the legendary stage director Harold Scott, the play was cast with all black actors, its subjects an African-American Olmec culture -- a clever play on Shakespeare’s vulnerable, conflicted and often delirious ensemble.
“Most of this Lear, for better or worse, is pretty standard stuff,” Dewitt grumbled. “That is plenty satisfying if the actors work as an ensemble, which this play demands as much as any of Shakespeare’s other great tragedies. But this cast is uneven, and their work together seldom has a life beyond the separate parts.”
More taken by the individual performances, Dewitt said Johnny Lee Davenport gave Kent a “rooted depth,” and was particularly impressed with the actor Avery Brooks as King Lear.
And then there was the young actor who played the Fool.
“More successful is Ray Ford as the Fool,” Dewitt remarked, “the only character who seems to belong in the same play as Mr. Brooks. Mr. Scott and the costume designer, Jessica Ford, have conceived the Fool's look as something like that of a witch doctor, and Mr. Ford mixes a comic naturalism with a supernatural wisdom that pumps momentum and energy into Lear’s journey.”
The role, at the play’s end, had pumped momentum and energy into Ford’s journey, as well. Nearly eight years later, Ford still calls the play his biggest break.
“That’s not very Hollywood,” he says mockingly, “but that’s the role I grew the most on … where I really learned to take direction and take risks. After that I said to myself that I could do anything. It gave me a lot of confidence.
“The doors that it opened were mostly in my psyche.”
Other doors have opened, too. Ford is now a co-star of the new hit ABC sitcom "Don't Trust the B---- in Apt 23" alongside James Van Der Beek and Krysten Ritter. In it, he plays Luther, James Van Der Beek’s painstaking, tip-toeing personal assistant. Van Der Beek is trying to recapture a glory that doesn’t resemble his ascent to stardom as the lead star in the show "Dawson’s Creek." The quest makes him insecure about celebrity, his status and relationships (Think Lisa Kudrow in the cult-favorite "The Comeback"). You wonder if the similar reality of King Lear -- aging, and in unrequited love with flattery -- is lost on Ford or the show’s creators.