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 Daniel J. Watts, a 2020 Tony nominee for creating the role of Ike Turner in the Tony-nominated Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, currently on hiatus due to the ongoing pandemic. The actor, whose numerous Broadway credits also include Hamilton, After Midnight, Motown the Musical, Ghost The Musical, Memphis, In the Heights, The Little Mermaid, and The Color Purple, has been seen Off-Broadway in The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World and Whorl Inside a Loop. Watts’ screen credits include The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The Last O.G., The Deuce, She’s Gotta Have It, The Night Of, Odd Mom Out, Vinyl, Blue Bloods, The Good Wife, Person of Interest, Boardwalk Empire, and Smash. He also recently delivered his first TEDxBroadway talk, Letting Paint Dry.
Watch Company of Tina: The Tina Turner Musical Perform Powerful ‘The Gatherers’
What is your typical day like now?
I guess the most “typical” thing is finding something creative to do, whether it’s writing, playing music, painting. I like knowing that I’ve at least attempted to make something during the day.
What book/TV show/podcast/film should everyone take the time to consume during this period?
Hugh Prather’s Notes to Myself or anything James Baldwin.
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 think people, unfortunately, are grossly misinformed on the history of the misrepresentation of BIPOC artists and artistry. And, the only way to be informed is to seek out, listen to, reflect on the stories told by BIPOC artists about their experiences. Too often our stories have been told through a lens that is not out own. People have to be willing to have their perspectives challenged and shifted. What must be considered is how one might contribute, whether maliciously or benignly, to said misrepresentation.
What advice would you give to someone who may be struggling with the isolation and/or the current unrest?
Find a therapist if you can. If not, try to engage in a meditative practice of some sort. We’re being bombarded with a lot right now. And, prolonged isolation is hard for the human condition. That said, I think we modern humans could afford to learn how to be without ourselves a little more. And understand that it’s okay to not be okay right now. A little self-grace goes a long way.
How, if at all, are you keeping your creative juices flowing? Has that been helpful to you?
I can’t help but be creative. I recognize it as both a blessing and a curse. The blessing in that the well never runs dry. The curse, it’s hard for me to turn my brain off. However, I find when I am in a rut, I just need to switch things up. You can’t force creation, it just has to flow. So writing turns into painting pretty easily these days, and I try not to get on myself for not finishing writing. I just transfer the energy to something else.
Are you working on any theatrical projects during this time?
I’m fleshing out projects here and there. There’s a running joke amongst friends about this piece about Pelé, the soccer player, I’ve been “developing” for quite some time. I need to give it a little love.
What organization would you recommend people learn more about or donate to during this time of change?
I like to start at home, so Broadway Serves, Broadway Advocacy Coalition, Black Theatre Coalition, Broadway for Racial Justice are all doing great work and can continue to benefit from support. Outside home base, I’ve been most excited by the folks at Until Freedom. They really took charge in Louisville and put together excellent programming and demonstrations.
READ: Checking In With… Memphis Tony Nominee Montego Glover
Inside Opening Night of Tina: The Tina Turner Musical on Broadway