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 Colby Lewis, who, in 2016, was cast as the standby for Aaron Burr, George Washington, Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson, and Mulligan/James Madison in the original Chicago company of Hamilton. The actor subsequently took over the roles of Lafayette/Jefferson while having a recurring role as medical student Terry McNeal on the fourth season of NBC’s Chicago Med. His previous stage credits also include Cassius Clay in Denver Center’s One Night in Miami… and Anthony in Jerry Mitchell’s Gotta Dance.
Lewis will soon be seen in a virtual production of Drew Larimore's technology-themed new play Smithtown. Directed by Stephen Kitsakos, the series of four interconnected but distinct monologues also features Michael Urie (Torch Song), Ann Harada (Avenue Q), and Constance Shulman (Orange Is the New Black). For ticket information about the play, which will stream February 13–27, click here.
What is your typical day like now?
Hmmm…well that’s pretty relative. LOL. I’ll say an ideal typical day for me begins with meditation, a good workout, and food. After that I’ll get into emails for auditions or voiceover work. Nothing is prescriptive aside from the first three things I mentioned. We like to cook a good bit. Just overall trying my best to protect my joy, peace, and sanity. And, lots of hand washing and mask wearing!
What book/TV show/podcast/film should everyone take the time to consume during this period?
I’m digging into a book called Deep Work right now by Cal Newport. Really awesome in how it boils productivity down making the space for profound growth, no matter your field of study. In terms of TV/film, it’s pretty heavy (definitely adult themes, so you’ve been warned), but I love I May Destroy You on HBO. Profound storytelling with a colorful cast. Same for Lovecraft Country on HBO. I always like to wash it down with an anime like My Hero Academia or Pokemon. Yes, I’m a kidult.
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?
I want everyone in a position of power to make art right now to know one thing about BIPOC artists. We are not monolithic. Therefore, we can be a part of any story. Actually, once we divorce our minds from the whitewashed history fed to us, we can all embrace the future. We just need the opportunity. Excuse me, opportunities. Real ones. We may fail. But the room to do so is the most important part of real equity and equality.
What advice would you give to someone who may be struggling with the isolation and/or the current unrest?
It may definitely sound woo-woo, but learning to be at peace with whatever emotions or loneliness that may arise in you. A political cartoonist friend wrote a piece of wisdom on a cloth napkin for me once. It said, “You must go in to find out.” I never forgot that. We’re living in a moment most of us have never seen in our lifetime. So we must treat ourselves with a care and level of self-awareness to match. I have anxiety. I just deleted my Instagram. Cure? No way. Help? For sure. It’s all about what you need in the moment.
How, if at all, are you keeping your creative juices flowing? Has that been helpful to you?
Consuming and practicing as many creative things as I possibly can. From TV shows or films I’ve wanted to see and didn’t have time for, to reading, drawing, cooking, whatever. Dance parties. Just doing, but as my energy allows. Right now, my partner Simoné and I are actually giving each other mock auditions to keep sharp and to push ourselves through the resistance of being artists in a pandemic. We have no set timeline for a return to work as the virus continues its spread and vaccines roll out, so it’s important to be where you are but also in a state of readiness as things are moving forward slowly. I think being present and laughing are honestly the two biggest keys to my creativity.
Are you working on any theatrical projects during this time?
Nothing theatrical currently, mainly TV/film auditions and projects. But...thanks to Stephen Kitsakos, I had a chance to bring the awesome and intriguing character of Eugene to life in Smithtown! I was really grateful for it, because the last time I got to handle some text was in Hamilton last March. It was a dark, but poignant and relevant piece; it really felt like artistic CPR in the moment. Hoping to do more soon.
What organization would you recommend people learn more about or donate to during this time of change?
I have a cool story. Friends of my mentor told me a story about their two young nephews, who actually heard about how actors have been struggling since the pandemic shut us down, and so asked their parents to give their “Christmas to the actors.” Beautiful thought. So the parents made a donation in their name to The Actors Fund, and also I may have given them a little remix of my Lafayette/Jefferson to show my gratitude. LOL. So I’d say if the kids can do it, you can, The Actors Fund for sure. Or Feeding America, lots of folks without work right now. You can’t work, you can’t eat in this country.