Tamara Tunie, beloved star of “Law & Order: SVU,” is onstage in a new, world-premiering drama called “American Son.” Written by Christopher Demos-Brown and the winner of the Laurents/Hatcher Award for best new play of 2016, it is playing at Barrington Stage Co. in Pittsfield, Mass., through July 9, 2016.
Tunie recently took the time to speak with the AmNews about this new production.
AmNews: How did you get involved in this project?
TT: Julianne Boyd, the artistic director at Barrington Stage, and Pat McCorkle the casting director, saw the recent production of “Familiar” at Playwrights Horizons, and my complicated and complex portrayal of Marvelous Chinyimwarira. They called my agent and after a meeting with Julie, they offered me the role of Kendra Ellis Scott.
What is “American Son” about?
This explosive new drama examines our nation’s racial divide through the eyes of an estranged interracial couple. Over the course of one evening, the couple’s disparate backgrounds collide as they confront an unexpected crisis involving their son, the police and an abandoned car.
Who is your character and what are her issues?
Kendra Ellis Scott, grew up in the hard streets of Liberty City in Miami. Single parent home with her mother. Put herself through college, then graduate school, and has a Ph.D. in psychology. Teaches at the University of Miami. Married FBI agent Scott Conner, who is Caucasian, of Irish decent. They have one son, who just turned 18 and has been raised with every privilege, who has excelled academically, and is on his way to the academy at West Point. After 20 years of marriage, Scott has left the relationship and is living elsewhere. As a result of this, their son, Jamal, is acting out and on this night, has not returned home. When the curtain rises, she is at the police station, trying to get help and answers.
Everyone has grown accustomed to seeing you on TV in “Law & Order: SVU.” What made you decide to do this production?
This is one of the most important plays presented to me. It is timely and current and puts it on the table! As an artist, I had to do it!
Why do theater? What are the challenges? What are the uplifting aspects?
Theater is the actor’s medium. It is my first love. Having the luxury of rehearsals and the time to dig deeper and deeper into the play and the character you are portraying is a joy. The process can be grueling and all consuming. The immediate response from the audience, the connection you feel, and sometimes hear, you just don’t get doing film and TV. To be able to tell a great story that affects people in some way, live and in person, where you can hear the audience breathing and they can see you sweating, or spit flying—nothing better!
How do you prepare for roles?
Every role is different, but I would say researching all aspects of the play, and the character. And then just jumping in.
What should audiences expect to see when they come to “American Son?”
Two very concerned parents who can’t see eye to eye. An emotional roller coaster that has thus far left audiences speechless and haunted.
Why should audiences go to see “American Son?”
If you are a human being, living in the United States of America, you must see this play!