As the temporary shutdown of Broadway and theatres around the world continues, Playbill is reaching out to artists to see how they are physically and creatively responding to a changed world.
The series continues with Norm Lewis, a Tony nominee for his performance in the 2012 revival of The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess. Most recently on Broadway in the Tony-winning revival of Once On This Island, Lewis was the first African-American performer to star in the title role of the New York production of The Phantom of the Opera. His other Broadway credits include Sondheim on Sondheim, The Little Mermaid, Les Misérables, Amour, The Wild Party, Side Show, The Who's Tommy, Chicago, and Miss Saigon. On screen the actor has been seen in Da 5 Bloods, Mrs. America, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert, Younger, Scandal, and more.
The Broadway favorite will offer a virtual version of his annual holiday show beginning December 17. Christmastime Is Here, featuring direction by Richard Jay-Alexander and musical direction by Joseph Joubert, streams through December 31. Click here for more information.
What is your typical day like now?
There is no such thing as "typical" in this pandemic. There is no typical day. Everything is so up in the air. There have been days where I didn't even get out of bed, and then there are those where I am zooming all day. So there is nothing typical about this time of life for me.
What book/TV show/podcast/film should everyone take the time to consume during this period?
Da 5 Bloods (Netflix) and Mrs. America (Hulu) (shameless plugs!). But also The Queen's Gambit (Netflix) and The Boys (Amazon Prime). So good!!
During this time of reflection and re-education regarding BIPOC artists and artistry, particularly in the theatre, what do you want people (those in power, fellow actors, audiences) to be aware of? What do you want them to consider further?
Consider diversity, awareness, and understanding the systemic racism within our industry and in our nation. Educate yourself. Learn more about American history, which includes all of those communities in BIPOC. Because it's not just Black history or Indigenous history, it's American history that's been left out of the narrative.
What advice would you give to someone who may be struggling with the isolation and/or the current unrest?
Make sure you reach out to people. Join groups that share your interests. Be a part of a Zoom that meets weekly. Get out of the house. Walk around, breathe fresh air. Go to a park somewhere that allows you to take in nature. Know that there is more than your television or computer. There is so much more in the outside world. Take the time to educate yourself. Read. Learn a new skill. This is a really good time to do a lot of soul searching and discover who you are.
How, if at all, are you keeping your creative juices flowing? Has that been helpful to you?
I've been lucky enough to be a part of benefits, readings, and even jobs that come my way. So I've been very blessed from that standpoint. And, sometimes I even sing in the shower, whenever I feel I need to exercise my voice. Sometimes even reading a play. Keeping up with the Joneses in that regard.
Are you working on any theatrical projects during this time?
Yes! My Christmas show at 54 Below. This year, we're calling it Norm Lewis: Christmastime Is Here. Airing December 17–31, and for the first time, it will be streamed to audiences, so you can watch from the comfort and safety of your own home. It meant so much for me to have this tradition continue and keep some normalcy amidst these times.
What organization would you recommend people learn more about or donate to during this time of change?
Black Theatre United, Black Theatre Coalition, The Broadway Advocacy Coalition, Black Broadway Men.