Postell Pringle finally has a role fit for a king.
As the eponymous lead in American Stage's production of the August Wilson play King Hedley II, Pringle brings a wealth of stage, screen and musical experience to bear.
"This is the most complex character I've ever played, besides maybe Othello," Pringle said. "I would put him right up there in the canon of American theater."
Hedley is recently released from a seven-year prison sentence for manslaughter. He's reunited with his estranged mother, gets his girlfriend pregnant, is looking for work and meets a man who hides a secret about his past. All that makes it hard to keep on the straight and narrow.
"He's trying to go straight, but his view is skewed," he said. "He knows what's good but struggles to do good."
Pringle, who previously performed in American Stage's 2005 Bomb-ity of Errors, knows plenty about criminal characters. One of his favorite roles was as Trey "Playboy X" Stewart in the top-selling Grand Theft Auto IV, for which he did voice work and acted out scenes in a motion-capture suit.
"It's this weird combination of stage acting and film acting," Pringle said. "You put on the skintight suit and have to act out scenes, but we had to be slightly more animated than normal, so the sensors pick everything up."
And even though he doesn't consider himself a gamer, he says plenty of performers and hip-hop artists — whom he's met through his work as a rapper under the singular moniker Postell (pronounced PAHS-tel) — tell him they loved GTA IV, despite the fact there's a plot where gamers must decide whether to kill Playboy X.
"I haven't gotten to my part in the game yet," he admitted, "but when I get there, I'm going to have to side with myself, I guess."
The experience taught him to jump at opportunities and take on all sorts of roles, even as bad guys.
"I'll play a bad guy all day. ... Those are the funnest, guilty pleasure kind of roles," Pringle said. "When you get to play unequivocal evil, that's the most delicious thing, when you don't care."
That's helped him appreciate the conflict in King Hedley's heart, too.
"It's a privilege for me to be in an August Wilson play," he said. "It's not just a black American experience, but the American experience, period."