During our recent webcam chat (watch above) “The Wiz: Live” star David Alan Grier revealed that his performance as the Cowardly Lion came from “how I grew up.” As the actor, best known for the sketch comedy series “In Living Color,” explains, “I grew up watching ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ Bert Lahr, the lion, was always my favorite role, so that’s kind of in my DNA. One of the first Broadway shows I ever saw was the stage production of ‘The Wiz,’ so that performance by Ted Ross was imprinted on me.” Ultimately, he believes “it felt like kind of taking those two performances and melding them together.”
Based on L. Frank Baum’s classic novel, “The Wiz” won the Tony for Best Musical in 1975 and was turned into a 1978 film. For Grier, a three-time Tony nominee (Featured Actor in a Musical for “The First”  and “Porgy and Bess” ; Featured Actor in a Play for “Race” ), who had previously starred in a production at the La Jolla Playhouse as the Wiz, this live broadcast on NBC was both a return to his roots and an opportunity to try something new. “I’ve never rehearsed for one performance professionally,” he admits.
Grier, who recently snagged a Critics Choice nomination for his efforts, hoped to “create a complete, three-dimensional character.” He was certainly helped by his elaborate makeup and costume. “We did one version of the show where it was just a group of actors in a room in our rehearsal clothes,” he divulged. “We had to kind of start again once we got the prosthetics and everything on, to make sure everything I was doing could be read by the audience.”
He also touched upon his role as comedian Jarrod Carmichael’s cantankerous dad in NBC’s “The Carmichael Show.” “I would call it a reinvented throwback,” says Grier of the hit multi-camera sitcom that touches upon many topical issues. “There were very specific ideas and techniques that Jerrod wanted to experiment with and do.” He adds, “It’s just been great to have this platform to be able to act, and be surrounded by such a talented group of writers.”
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