Make us your home page
Instagram

'The Blacklist' actor Harry Lennix sees bright future for the Tampa Bay Theatre Festival

TAMPA — Harry Lennix has a lot on his plate.

The soft-voiced actor, who plays assistant FBI counterterrorism director Harold Cooper on NBC's The Blacklist, also runs a film production company he founded, directs Shakespearean plays across the country and is active in civic groups.

So when his agent in 2015 passed along a request to lead a workshop at a theater festival in Tampa, Lennix was ready to say no.

"I wasn't interested in teaching acting at the time," Lennix, 51, said in a phone interview. Then the Chicago agent told Lennix what the caller had said — that he was one of the only African-American directors in the Tampa Bay area, that he wanted to create a platform for new works and help local actors get high-quality training to which few had access.

"The next email that I received from his agent was, 'Mr. Lennix would like to speak with you directly,'" said Rory Lawrence, 44, who founded this weekend's Tampa Bay Theatre Festival. Lawrence hoped Lennix, who has also appeared in numerous films including The Matrix: Reloaded and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, would lead a master acting class.

Something about Lawrence's pitch struck a nerve.

"He was so sincere," Lennix said. "That kind of sincerity and earnestness is frequently missing in the professional circles I run in."

He agreed to lead the three-and-a-half hour class in 2015, and he enjoyed the experience so much, he agreed to come back this year. Lennix returns Saturday to conduct another free workshop. Topics include how to extract clues about character from a script, using your body while delivering lines and basic self-confidence.

"The thing I try to impart to them is that they are much better than they think they are and they should be comfortable with themselves," Lennix said.

Lennix grew up in Chicago, the youngest of four children. He majored in literature and communications at Northwestern University but also developed a serious interest in theater. Another lasting influence came after college when he taught public school. Even after 30 years as an accomplished actor, Lennix believes he picks up as much from students as they learn from him.

"It is almost imperative to get with young people and see how they are thinking," Lennix said. "I can show them traditional forms, and they have a new spin on it, a new spice. Fried chicken is always good, but sometimes you get introduced to Sriracha. I like that mix. Down in Hollywood, it's really not about technique or the joy of craft. It's about execution, being that known quantity. That's important, but a lot of the passion gets lost."

The actor who has played Malcolm X and whose film company, Legacy Productions, promotes the African-American experience, is lukewarm about recent controversies involving black representation at the Academy Awards.

"The best thing for black actors is to create their own thing, and to gain power through attraction and not promotion," he said. "To try to force yourself into a club that is hostile to you is dangerous."

He is a fan of the Tampa Bay Theatre Festival, now in its third year.

"I think what Rory is doing is creating a movement that's quite remarkable," Lennix said. "In Europe, theater is much more a part of everyday life. I think he's trying to create something like that here, to create a voice for the voiceless, a way of being an activist through storytelling. I think it's only going to grow in Tampa."

Contact Andrew Meacham at ameacham@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.

. If you go

Harry Lennix Master Class

The Harry Lennix Workshop runs from 3:30 to 7 p.m. Saturday at the Mainstage Theater, Hillsborough Community College, 2112 N 15th St., Tampa. Free. The festival runs Friday through Sunday at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. Free to $135. (813) 229-7827. For a full schedule, visit tampabaytheatrefestival.com.

'The Blacklist' actor Harry Lennix sees bright future for the Tampa Bay Theatre Festival 09/01/16 [Last modified: Thursday, September 1, 2016 11:14am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 19: A peregrina spends the whole day under the weather, and part of the day under the table

    Travel

    Day 19: El Burgo Ranero to Puente Villarente: 25.4 km, 7.5 hours (Total for Days 1-19 = 454 km (282 miles)

    This list pretty much sums up my day:

    Eat two bananas

    Walk 13.1 kilometers

    Nap

    Walk 6.2 kilometers

    Nap

    Eat half an apple

    Walk 6.1 kilometers

    Crash< …

  2. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 18: Despite feeling ill, this pilgrim passes the midpoint in her 500-mile journey on foot

    Travel

    Day 18: Lédigos to El Burgo Ranero: 34.3 km, 12.25 hours (Total for Days 1-18 = 428 km (266 miles)

    Today was a struggle.

  3. Actor John Heard dies at age 72

    Blogs

    John Heard, who played so many roles in the '80s but was probably best known as the dad in the Home Alone movies, has died, according to media reports. He was 72.

  4. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 17: Think 11 miles of nothing but straight trail and open, flat fields sounds easy? Think again.

    Travel

    Day 17: Villarmentero de Campos to Lédigos: 33.5 km, 10.25 hours. Total for Days 1-17 = 394 km (245 miles)

  5. Tom Sawyer with a revolver? Twain house has live 'Clue' game

    Attractions

    HARTFORD, Conn. — Was it Tom Sawyer in Samuel Clemens' billiard room with a revolver?

    In this July 14 photo, actor Dan Russell, left, portraying the character Arkansas from Mark Twain's book Roughing it, responds to a question from 10-year-old Emma Connell, center, of Arizona during a "Clue" tour at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Conn. The tour allows visitors to interact with Twain characters while playing a live-action version of the board game. [AP Photo/Pat Eaton-Robb]