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From Chicago Sun Times

K. Todd Freeman

K. Todd Freeman (Mr Trick) - Chicago Sun Times Interview

By Mary Houlihan

Tuesday 21 October 2003, by Webmaster

K. Todd Freeman Filmography : http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0293461/

The first thing you notice about K. Todd Freeman are his eyes. Even from the Steppenwolf Theatre stage, as he performs his current role as Booth in Suzan-Lori Parks’ "Topdog/Underdog," his gaze is penetrating and seductive. In this Pulitzer Prize-winning drama about two African-American brothers, Freeman’s nervous energy spills off the stage and mesmerizes each audience member.

But this is nothing new for Freeman, a Steppenwolf ensemble member since 1993. Last season’s turn in Bruce Norris’ psychotic black comedy "We All Went Down to Amsterdam," at the Steppenwolf Upstairs Theatre, was graceful and volcanic. Theatergoers will also recall memorable work in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest," "Libra" and the lead role in "A Clockwork Orange."

Freeman, who grew up in Houston as the youngest of three children, first came in contact with Steppenwolf when he auditioned and won the lead role in the company’s staging of "The Song of Jacob Zulu." The production moved to Broadway, Freeman won a Tony Award nomination and around that time was asked to join the prestigious ensemble. He also is a company member at Houston’s Alley Theatre (where "Topdog/Underdog" will travel after its Chicago run) and a founding member of the Drama Dept. in New York City

The Steppenwolf connection is something that an actor dreams about, Freeman admits.

"People look at you and immediately think you can act because you’re with Steppenwolf," he said, laughing. "So it looks really good on the resume."

Like most of the Steppenwolf ensemble, Freeman hasn’t limited himself to theater. His film credits include "The Cider House Rules," "Grosse Pointe Blank," "A Gentleman’s Game," "The End of Violence" and "Grand Canyon." He has appeared on television in "NYPD Blue," "Sisters," "A Different World," "Brooklyn Bridge" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

Freeman’s drama training goes back to junior high when he began taking classes at the Alley Theatre. His two older sisters had attended the program, but Freeman’s parents weren’t convinced that he should follow in their footsteps. After seeing him in a sixth-grade play about Noah’s Ark (he played Noah), they relented. His first professional role came during a high school production of "Romeo and Juliet" at the Alley. He went on to attend Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and the North Carolina School of the Arts, where he studied theater.

Then Freeman took a deep breath and moved to New York to pursue his dream. Lady luck was on his side ; he spent relatively little time on "other jobs."

"Don’t get me wrong, there were some lean years," he said. "But I’ve been able to do fairly well with it — regional theater, Off-Broadway, Broadway, film and television. I’ve been very lucky."

Recently, Freeman took some time out of his busy schedule at Steppenwolf to share his thoughts on his career.

Q. Do you remember what drew you to acting ?

A. My first memory is from around the age of 5, watching television and thinking, "Wow, it looks like they are having fun in there." I wanted to get in there and do it, too.

And then in elementary school, I realized I had an affinity for acting. It was a good feeling, something that just seemed to fit.

Q. You’ve said you love the "journey" of the rehearsal process. Why ?

A. I like being able to try anything in order to find out what’s right. Feeling free to just mess up if I have to, not editing myself, but just being free to play around and explore freely. Sometimes it comes down to making a bad choice in order to make the right choice.

Q. What was your first reaction to Parks’ dialogue in "Topdog/Underdog" ?

A. It’s poetry. She can take a sort of street vernacular and raise it to a level of prose that I think is quite lovely.

Q. Did you want to play Booth from the beginning ?

A. Yes, I felt his rhythms were more my rhythms. I related more to him through the rhythm of the dialogue, the rhythm of his troubles.

Booth has a very quick energy, very pent-up and full of suffering, and there’s a lot of anger, but he’s also kind of silly at the same time.

Q. You’ve done serious theater, but you also had a recurring role on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." What was that like ?

A. "Buffy" was great fun. They allowed me a lot of freedom, and I was able to play around with the character. I was supposed to be on one show, but they liked what they saw and wrote me into six episodes.

Q. Were you a good vampire or a bad vampire ?

A. Oh, they were all bad vampires. (Laughs) But they loved me because I was a vampire with style and a great sense of humor. I was in Gucci suits, trying to bring vampires into the computer age. Very classy and high tech.

Q. Is there a certain type of role that you won’t do ?

A. There’s nothing I won’t take on as long as I think it’s worthy of being done. But I’m really irritated by the stereotypical characters in television and film.

The only way I’ll play a drug addict or a gangster or something like that is if the overall piece says something to my liking. But generally, I’ve stopped going out for that kind of role.

Q. Do you find more roles to your liking in theater ?

A. Yes, good roles are much easier to find in theater. I’ve done six plays at Steppenwolf. Three of those roles were written for an African-American. The other three, like the Malcolm McDowell role in "A Clockwork Orange," weren’t. Theater is much more open to using anyone who might be able to fit the role and make sense of the whole play. I think there is a lot more opportunity for all ethnic backgrounds in the theater.

Q. You lived for a while in L.A., a city that is such a different animal than theater centers like Chicago, New York or Houston. How did you survive that ?

A. Actually, I can go out there and work from time to time, but I don’t think I will ever live there again. The focus in L.A. — money, beauty, glamor — is something that I’m just not focused on. It’s an industry that is skewed in an odd way. Either you have the stomach for it, or you don’t.

Q. Are there any roles you’re dying to play ?

A. I do want to do "Macbeth." It’s my favorite Shakespeare play, and besides, Macbeth is just so cool. I love dark, crazed, complex characters. I also wouldn’t mind doing "Waiting for Godot." I love the beautiful loneliness of that play, and Beckett’s language is wonderful and compelling.

Q. Are you ever amazed that you’re making a living at something you’ve wanted to do since elementary school ?

A. Oh, yeah. It’s a blessing to be able to work at something you’ve wanted to do for as long as you can remember.

There are so few people out there who actually get to do what they love. I’m very grateful and very aware of the rarity of it.


When : Through Nov. 2 Where : Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted Tickets : $36-$52 Phone : (312) 335-1650