The Notebook's Dorian Harewood Says Bette Davis Is Responsible for His Acting Career | Playbill

How Did I Get Here The Notebook's Dorian Harewood Says Bette Davis Is Responsible for His Acting Career

The Emmy-nominated stage and screen star is back on Broadway in the musical version of the Nicholas Sparks novel.

Graphic by Vi Dang

Dorian Harewood, who garnered an NAACP Image Award for his work as Clarence "Cool Papa" Charleston in the NBC series I'll Fly Away, is back on Broadway this season in the new musical The Notebook, which will officially open March 14 at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre.

The musical adaptation of Nicholas Sparks' novel, which follows Allie and Noah through a lifetime of love, features a score by singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson and a book by playwright Bekah Brunstetter. Co-directed by Michael Greif and Schele Williams, the production casts the versatile Harewood—new to the company since the musical's 2022 Chicago premiere—as Older Noah with John Cardoza as Younger Noah and Ryan Vasquez as Middle Noah. The three artists star opposite Jordan Tyson as Younger Allie, Joy Woods as Middle Allie, and Tony winner Maryann Plunkett as Older Allie.

Harewood, a commanding presence on stage and screen, has also been seen on Broadway in Two Gentlemen of Verona, Don't Call Back, Streamers, and The Mighty Gents. An Emmy nominee for Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream, the Ohio native's numerous screen credits include Roots: The Next Generation, Strike Force, The Jesse Owens Story, Full Metal Jacket, Against All Odds, Sudden Death,12 Angry Men, Viper, The Hoop Life, Private Practice, Boomtown, Las Vegas, Sarah Connor Chronicles, Criminal Minds, 9-1-1, Big Sky, and Bel-Air, among many others.

In the interview below for the Playbill series How Did I Get Here—spotlighting not only actors, but directors, designers, musicians, and others who work on and off the stage to create the magic that is live theatre—the multitalented Harewood shares the influence that both Oscar winner Bette Davis and Tony winner Chita Rivera had on his career.

The Notebook stars Dorian Harewood, Maryann Plunkett, Ryan Vasquez, Joy Woods, John Cardoza, and Jordan Tyson Rachel Neville

Where did you train/study?
Dorian Harewood: I studied at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, training with the great mezzo soprano, Lucile V. Evans.

Was there a teacher who was particularly impactful/helpful? What made this instructor stand out?
Lucile Evans taught me how to sing opera and classical music. Because of her, I learned how to breathe, how to support my sound, and how to protect my voice. Her tutelage has allowed me to sing all kinds of music, not just classical, while protecting my voice from stress and strain. I am forever in her debt.

You've shared the stage with two icons: Bette Davis and Chita Rivera. Can you share a memory about each?
I started as a singer, but I was talked into acting by the legendary Bette Davis, with whom I worked on Miss Moffat, a musical version of a film she had starred in called The Corn Is Green. She was my mentor. She advised me in all areas of acting, whether it be stage, screen, or television. She was extremely down to earth, unlike her image. She was a straight shooter, so to speak. Among the many invaluable pieces of professional advice she bestowed upon me, the one I remember the most is when she said to me: "Be on time, know your lines, hit your marks, and most importantly, trust your instincts, and fight for them if you have to."

Additionally, I had both the honor and the pleasure of working with the great Chita Rivera on Kiss of the Spider Woman. I learned so very much working with her and watching her work. She personified the word “indefatigable,” night in and night out. She was a kind, loving, unselfish, and giving performer, offering support, encouragement, and advice to me and everyone else in the company. One thing she said to me I will always remember: “Never stop moving.”

There are two other actors who play Noah at different ages in The Notebook. How have you all worked together to create the character?
John Cardoza, who plays Younger Noah, and Ryan Vasquez, who plays Middle Noah, are both supremely talented actors and incredible singers. It has been (and continues to be) a joy working with them on this project. We have all worked together to create Noah by simply adhering to the beautifully written script, singing the wondrous, glorious score and moving to the subtle, yet imaginatively dynamic choreography—under the brilliant direction of our co-directors.

Do you have a dream stage role?
My dream stage role would be a musical version of the 1961 feature film The Hustler.

Bette Davis and Dorian Harewood in Miss Moffat

What made you decide to become an actor?
It was not what, but who. The legendary actress, Bette Davis, talked me into acting. She is literally responsible for my entire acting career. After landing the lead role opposite her in the musical Miss Moffat, Bette told me that as much as she loved my singing, which landed me the role, the thing that caught her eye was my dramatic instincts. She said they were very similar to hers, and that I should really consider dramatic acting at some point. Miss Moffat was scheduled to tour across the country before landing on Broadway, and I told Bette that after we hit Broadway and had our successful run, I would take her advice and look into straight acting.

As fate would have it, the show closed out of town prematurely. I took Bette‘s advice and auditioned for my first-ever straight acting role. It was a Broadway show called Don’t Call Back. It starred Arlene Francis. I auditioned for the male lead, got the role, and even though the show opened and closed the same night, I won the Theatre World Award for outstanding New York City Broadway stage debut. Bette Davis accepted the award for me.

What do you consider your big break?
Landing the role of Morgan Evans opposite Bette Davis in the musical Miss Moffat.

How did you get your first job in the theatre?
It was 1971. I was in Dayton, Ohio, where I was born and raised, searching the local newspaper for some auto parts for my car. I noticed an ad saying that they were holding auditions for a “bus and truck” tour of the hit musical Jesus Christ Superstar. I auditioned for the role of Judas. Fortunately, I landed the role. It was my first professional job in theatre.

What is your proudest achievement as an actor?
Portraying both Simon Alexander Haley in Roots: The Next Generations and Jesse Owens in The Jesse Owens Story.

Photos: The Notebook on Broadway Meets the Press

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