Actor Kyle Vincent Terry is prepping for a knockout performance in the Huntington Theatre’s production of Man in the Ring, running from Nov. 16 to Dec. 22 at the BCA’s Calderwood Pavilion. But before playing six-time world champion boxer Emile Griffith during his early years, Terry chatted with us about his dream roles and pre-performance raps.
How do you and John Douglas Thompson handle sharing the role of Emile Griffith? The interesting thing is that we are similar in size and color, but that’s about it. Our voices are very different, our energies are different, so as we’ve been working I’ve found it best—and I think he’s been approaching it in a similar way—to just keep our eyes on each other. We pick up little things that we both do in order to help with mannerisms and physicality, but a lot of it is just me listening to the way he speaks, his rhythmic patterns for old Emile and then taking those things and incorporating them for the Emile I play.
Do you see any of yourself in the character? Absolutely. I think one of the most important pieces of the show is getting to see a depiction of a very strong-willed, athletic, smart, creative young man who is also gentle and not violent in his demeanor, but capable of inflicting his will through his discipline and resilience. I think there are very few stories that touch on how we treat strong-bodied, dark-skinned people regardless of what’s inside their hearts or their minds. And I have found many places in which the emotional trajectory of young Emile and older Emile are very in sync with things that I’ve experienced as a young man.
What is your bucket-list production to be a part of? My bucket-list production would easily be West Side Story. I was a professional dancer for a long time and I’ll never leave that world. I approach everything as a dancer and I think the whole tone of West Side Story and it being such a thorough exploration of universal ideas and having such an incredible score and opportunities for dance and fight work that can be reimagined to fit the time, the trends and different bodies—that would just blow my mind.
Do you have any special rituals before you perform? I have a list of difficult rap songs that I sing along to in order to get my articulators working. By the time I get through those, I can say anything. I’ll also do a good workout beforehand. I like to feel like I’m just on the positive side of tired once the show starts, when your body is willing to ignore fatigue and your will has kicked in. Then I’m not just warming up into the show, I’m already at a high-energy place to start it.