Asheville High graduate Chris Chalk knew that someday he would get to Broadway, he says.
"I wouldn't call it a dream, only because it's a reality of mine that I have been working to manifest for years," he tells Xpress. "A dream sounds so elusive for some reason and I knew this was coming. I didn't know when or how, but I knew it would be here."
And now, there he is—playing a lead role in an acclaimed revival of August Wilson's Fences. With Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, no less. This comes after roles on major TV shows (Law and Order, The Good Wife), films (Before the Devil Knows You're Dead) and just finished an off-Broadway run of the Pulitzer-Prize winning play Ruined.
Fences runs through July 11, and has been earning stellar reviews from the likes of The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, The New Yorker and more. Fences was just nominated for 10 Tony Awards, and Chalk was nominated for a Drama Desk Award (earned for excellence in Broadway, off-Broadway and nonprofit theatre in New York). I caught up with Chalk, an old friend, a former Montford resident, a dear person and someone who has worked very hard to achieve his goals.
How did you land the role?
I had four auditions. Which consisted of No. 1, the initial audition, which was long before the first callback. Weeks later, after I was pretty sure I didn't book the gig, I heard tell of a Saturday callback, and if I was good, I would have another callback that day. So I went in, did the thing, and was super nervous from the second I woke up, despite my preachings of fearlessness. Super excited and nervous. I was asked to come back at 2:15 for a callback with Denzel Washington. I did that; it was very fun. I got a call after a class I was teaching at Labyrinth Theatre Company, that they wanted to see me on Sunday. Weekend auditions are very rare in New York, in my experience, and hoped they wanted to see me before the Jets playoff game, which they did, and which was good. Later that day, I got the call that I booked it, and I couldn't tell anyone until the press announcement.
What's the best part about being in the show? How is the run going?
Doing the work is the best part. I am every day excited to go to work because my cast is fun, talented, funny, inspiring, blessed, open, enthusiastic, smart, brilliant and we get to do August Wilson's work on stage every night. It's a blessing. It's fun. The run is going very well. We were just nominated for 10 Tonys, and I (blushing and embarrassed and thankful and excited) was nominated for a Drama Desk Award. And that's all fun and cool, and we also keep it about the work. It's a pleasure to be recognized by your community for great work.
What's it like to be on Broadway? How does it match your expectations?
Broadway is like every other play and with more money and exposure and expectation. I knew this play would be a pleasure to work on because of the cast and the creative team. So I didn't even leave room for expectation, because I knew it would be awesome. And it has been. I feel that Broadway or not, it's the best when you get a group of creatives together who are smart and excited and talented, and have a common goal. That's what we are blessed with on this project.
Has this been a dream of yours? What's it like working with such big names?
I wouldn't call it a dream, only because it's a reality of mine that I have been working to manifest for years. A dream sounds so elusive, for some reason, to me, and I knew this was coming. I didn't know when or how, but I knew it would be here. I love my cast. Everyone is excited to work. And play. And laugh and share and pray. We pray together before shows to get grounded, and remember why we are here. That's a blessing. It's an honor to work with my cast. They are gifts to me, and I am thankful for them daily.
Learn more about the show at www.fencesonbroadway.com.