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The Heavyweights

When I first came to New York to study at The Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, Al Pacino commanded the stage in "American Buffalo". I must have seen that play three times to watch the master. Better yet a heavyweight in the ring  so organic and real was his performance. I think I have seen every play he has been in except "Salome". Here are  two heavyweight actors in the prime of their careers, Reg E.Cathey and Dylan Baker from my Huffington Post blog.

"Shawshank Redemption" London



Currently in the reoccurring role of Freddy, the owner of Freddy's BBQ, in Netflix' original series "House of Cards" and The Riper in ABC's "Grimm", Reg E. Cathey is an actor’s actor. His palette commands a range of characters from lawyers, veterans, drug addicts, historical figures, Shakespeare and homeless men.  He is known for diverse and challenging acting roles in stage (The Shawshank Redemption, Art, The Green Bird), television {The Wire, Law & Order, Homicide, Oz, The Corner) and film  (Everyday People, S.W.A.T., Pootie Tang). Reg E. is a dangerous actor you never know what he’ll bring to the work that is why cutting edge directors cast him. An alum of Yale School of Drama, his fellow classmates include David Alan Grier, Dylan Baker and Jim Simpson. He and Jim were roommates at Yale and beyond. Both two poor to afford furniture they managed to “borrow” a couch, chairs and a desk. Reg E. laughs, What happens in the event horizon stays in the event horizon”. A quote passed down by his father Red Cathey,an Army colonel. An Army brat, he with his mother, an educator and sister lived all over the world.   Last year Jim directed Reg E. in the A.R. Gurney play, “Heresy” at The Flea Theatre. Reg E. describes commitment to his true love theatre, “There is this one moment that the piece (play) comes together; all the blood, sweat and tears of the writer mixes with the energy of the cast and the director’s interpretation of the piece. At certain performances all that energy comes together with the audience. Some say you have the audience in the palm of your hand but the audience also has you in the palm of their hand. This energy creates a beautiful thing that has a short life. It’s better than sex. No matter how talented, skilled or trained you are the next performance may not get here. That’s the dragon I’m chasing.” Off to New Mexico to work on the indie film, “Enemy Way” with Harvey Keitel, Brenda Blethyn, Ellen Burstyn and Forest Whitaker, Reg E. Cathey is riding the dragon.
Boyishly handsome with piercing blue eyes and an enigmatic smile   actor Dylan Baker   could easily   play to type .The talented Mr. Baker delivers   dramatic subtle performances of deeply flawed modern men.    Since his brilliant turn as the immoral and depraved Bill Maplewood in the film “Happiness”, Dylan has   garnered kudos from critics and audiences. (Independent Spirit Awards, Critics Choice ).  

One of the most original and steadily employed actors in the business Dylan excels in roles on stage (Eastern Standard, La BĂȘte, Mauritius, November, God of Carnage) television  (Damages, Smash, Law & Order Criminal Intent, Kings) and film (Thirteen Days, Road to Perdition, Revolutionary Road, Spider-man 2,Spider-man 3).  His role as Colin Sweeny on “The Good Wife” has earned two Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Guest Actor. Equally in demand for theater roles by the best playwrights (David Mamet, Theresa Rebeck, Howard Korder) an actor of his depth must have a role he yearns to play.

“I was always drawn to play Shakespeare's King Henry II, and I even worked on his speeches for years.  I never got a chance to play him, tho Colin Sweeney is a bit of a modern take on him.  I don't know if Sweeney will ever have the self-awareness and clear-headed thought process that Henry has, though.  But perhaps season 6 will venture into a new realm: "Let's sit on the ground and tell sad stories of the death of millionaires".”

Dylan has been directing regional (New Jersey Shakespeare Festival, Williamstown Theater Festival) and Off Broadway theatre between acting roles.  He is making his feature film-directing debut   with the independent film, “23 Blast ”.   23 Blast actually is based on a true story about guy named Travis Freeman, a football player in Corbin, KY who after he lost his sight, played football again.  That was pretty exciting.  For those families to trust us with their story, to have faith that we would render their story on the big screen in a way that would honor that story.  It is an awesome responsibility, and it's humbling.  
The same work ethic and craft he applies to his acting Dylan brings to directing.
“I love to work with people, to find those who are the best at their jobs, and to turn them loose to do their thing.  I have heard it said that 90% of successful directing is casting, and I agree, but I'd raise that maybe 9% more.  I love actors, I love watching them work.  And now that I have seen what a great editor can do, that really attracts me to directing.  The editing process was even more enjoyable than shooting, and the shooting was a gas!  My film, 23 Blast, really opened my eyes to the potential of film, the possibility of telling a story, of thrilling an audience sith a communal experience.  I never get over hearing a crowd laugh together at something I think is funny; it is the best high ever.”

A class act, Dylan’s greatest pleasure is his contribution to the work.
“I think all acting is a descendant of that first impulse around the camp fire to tell a story.  I enjoy telling stories, and I love it, film, TV, theater, when I can do my part and get that story out there.  When you really connect with an audience to the point where they get the message, they happily go on the journey the writer intends to take them on, that brings me great joy. “ 
 

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