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Veteran actor Glynn Turman leads an all-star cast in the award-winning play, ‘Joe Turner’s Come and Gone.’
The historic production, directed by Tony winner Phylicia Rashad and written by Pulitzer Award playwright August Wilson, powerfully comes to life on stage at the Mark Taper Forum in downtown Los Angeles.
Based in a boarding house in Pittsburgh, the story is filled with diverse characters like Selig, the Caucasian people finder; Bertha, the wisecracking wife of Seth; Loomis, the man looking for his place in the world; and Seth, the curious boarding house owner.
Turman, known for his portrayal of Leroy "Preach" Jackson in the 1975 film, ‘Cooley High’ and as Colonel Bradford 'Brad' Taylor in ‘A Different World,’ plays the traveling shaman, Bynum.
He drives the story with his comical antics, weird spiritual antidotes and wise advice that he gives to every character, in between short monologues, that helped paint the historic background of post Emancipation Proclamation America.
Noting that spiritual themes run throughout the show, Turman said, “[Spirituality and the occult] is something that we can all relate to. Some of us may know more about the world that he [Bynum] dwells in than others. That is what makes him so different and it sends him on a quest to make sure that his spirituality is indeed viable and recognized.”
Faith is important to Turman, who admits to weighing the negative with the positive in each role he chooses. “I’m a member of the West Angeles Church of God in Christ with Bishop [Charles] Blake,” he said.
“My personal faith was drilled into me at an early age, not that I was a church goer, my mother was a church goer. [We] had a strong belief in God, a strong belief in prayer. It is that strong belief that has seen me through troubled waters.”
When a project is considered too negative, Turman may decide against playing that role even if the character has some positive aspects.
“I’ve turned down roles here and there. The arts give a great deal of leeway, but at the same time, negative images must be scrutinized. If the whole thing becomes a negative experience, then I don’t want to be a part of that.”
Reflecting on his career, Turman recalled, “I’ve been very blessed that I have been part of several projects that have made great impact especially on black people. ‘Cooley High’ was one of them. ‘A Different World’ was a very wonderful project that made young people think, very seriously, about going to college.
“It was reported to me that the college applications shot up 30 to 40 percent, and it was a result of them watching ‘A Different World.’ You can’t help but count those to further that cap of what you are proud of,” he said.
Turman, who won an Emmy for his role in ‘In Treatment’ in 2008 on Showtime, will likely keep striving to reach new heights in television, film and theater.
“I do all of it, movies, television, theater. I’m still on ‘House of Lies’ with Don Cheadle. I play his father on the show, but I started on stage many, many years ago. I’ve always gravitated back to stage when the opportunity presented itself.”