Meet Brandon Victor Dixon, the man behind Motown: The Musical.
With his current starring role as up in Long Island and Queens. In high the legendary Berry Gordy, Jr. in the hit Broadway show Motown: The Musical, Brandon Victor Dixon continues a string of performances that are both moving and significant to the black cultural experience in America. You may recognize him for his role as Harpo from The Color Purple, the stirring story of the African-American experience during the Depressionera in the Deep South, for which he received a Tony nomination. He also originated the role of Simba in the national tour of The Lion King before hitting the bright lights of Broadway.
To immerse himself in Motown on the Great White Way, Dixon enjoyed the benefit of working with Berry Gordy, the man who helped define decades of pop culture and music. Berry Gordy founded Motown Records and launched the careers of everyone from Marvin Gaye, The Supremes and Michael Jackson and made himself completely available to Dixon.
This past November, Dixon formed Walk Run Fly Productions with his long- time friend and colleague, Warren Adams, co-producing two of the most anticipated shows this theater season: Hedwig & the Angry Inch, starring Neil Patrick Harris and Of Mice & Men, starring James Franco and Chris O’Dowd.
Dixon’s list of hits continues to grow. He took some time to bring us backstage to see how he has been able to channel the masters of the past to become one of the most promising stars of today.
What originally attracted you to acting?
I think my mom knew when I was three years old, I had it in me. I had a vivid imagination. I loved the Legos, loved the games that challenged me, but most of all I loved the ability to perform, dance, sing, act out scenes. It was my passion.
How did you first find your way to New York and eventually to Broadway?
My first real exposure to New York City was through my parents. I remember going to the Double Tree hotel and seeing the lights on Broadway. That infectious energy captivated me on the spot. I grew school, I performed in plays. I also sang in churches. That gave me the foundation for this remarkable gift of entertaining, which is in my blood.
But how did Broadway break into your act?
Along came Rent. It was the first show I ever auditioned for. I was only 15, and it changed the way I looked at theatre. I auditioned six times but never broke in. So imagine my reward in finally getting to play Colin, who I wanted to play all of my life! I attended Columbia University to learn acting. When The Lion King opportunity came up, I auditioned and eventually joined the first class of master dancers. Boy did I prepare for that role! For six months I ran three miles, did yoga, did all I could to be limber for the demanding schedule I was grateful to get.
How important was The Color Purple to you and your career?
It was a combination of a good audition and good fortune. I mean, you rarely leave a show and fall into another one so quickly. And the same thing happened with Ray Charles Live! Now, that was a special experience; the kind of role you must immerse your- self into. This was my first main lead, and I was also involved in helping to develop it. So, it was a bit challenging but beyond rewarding. I love taking on roles that have great cultural qualities to them.
How do you prepare to play such iconic personalities in the black experience?
History is the ultimate way to relive these characters. I’ve done many African Ameri- can roles. I always say instead of Black history, it should be American history. We are all equal, no divide.
By Suzanne Corso
Brandon Victor Dixon is featured in DOWNTOWN’S Summer 2014 edition. Check him out in our latest issue on newsstands now! Or subscribe to DOWNTOWN Magazine for home delivery by clicking here.