Mekhi Phifer Talks Broadway, Alicia Keys and Single Fatherhood
1 year ago
The actor is making his Broadway debut in Alicia Key's "Stick Fly"
Over the past sixteen years Mekhi Phifer has been one of the busiest African-American actors, starring on television for six seasons as Dr. Gregory Pratt in ER and appearing in numerous films including “Soul Food,” “8 Mile,” and Spike’s Lee’s “Clockers.” He is currently featured in the British sci-fi TV series Torchwood as CIA agent Rex Matheson, and earlier this month made his Broadway debut in a play produced by Alicia Keys, “Stick Fly.”
Mekhi, who celebrates his 37th birthday this week, recently sat down with Loop 21 to discuss why he wanted to appear on the Greay White Way, how difficult it is raising two sons as a single parent, and how he’s providing opportunities for filmmakers locked out of the Hollywood system.
Loop 21: You are making your Broadway debut in “Stick Fly” about an upper class African-American family vacationing at their summer home in Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. Why Broadway?
Mehki Phifer: This is my first time doing a play and I am having a ball. As far as I know we only have one life to live so live it to the fullest. It’s good to accept a challenge, something that is not familiar, not easy. When you accomplish it, you are living life. Plus I am bringing something to the community. It’s nice to be ingratiated into the Broadway world. You know there are Broadway snobs who say you’re not an actor until you have done Broadway. We have a great cast with Dule Hill, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Tracie Thoms, Rosie Benton, and. Condola Rashad who is Phylicia Rashad’s daughter. We have fun every night. Dule plays my brother and I’ve known him for thirteen years. I make a guest appearance in his TV series “Psych” in an episode airing in February. We love to hang out together after the shows like real brothers.
Loop 21: How involved is Alicia Keys who is making her debut as a Broadway producer?
Phifer: First of all she is wonderful, a lovely person and her involvement in bringing this play to Broadway is very inspiring. Unfortunately I have not worked with her closely on this project because her main emphasis was composing the great music which I enjoy every night. So most of her work was done in advance of the play creating the music.
Loop 21: What is the key to making a realistic portrayal of a character?
Phifer: Actors look at life in a different way. When I meet people I know that one day I may portray that person or someone like them. It may be a cop or a homeless guy. It helps you to pay more attention to people. Everyone I meet I retain something from them, something from their personality. It helps me to portray realism in my work.
Loop 21: What do you look for in your roles?
Phifer: I look for realism. It does not matter what it is, comedy, urban drama, whatever. I want it to feel real. I don’t want To feel like I’m acting.
Loop 21: In “Stick Fly” your family vacations in Martha’s Vineyard where President Obama enjoys his summer vacation.