“I love when art can heal,” confesses Derrick Baskin. The actor is dipping into the healing power of performance via his lead role in the hit new musical “Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations.” Baskin portrays living legend and founder of The Temptations, Otis Williams, and described his his journey in the show to Gold Derby. Watch the exclusive video interview above.
Baskin received the chance to meet with Otis Williams during the creative process and describes the musician as “warm” and always open to sharing his “wealth of knowledge.” Though Baskin admits he didn’t know too much about the man behind the famous music, he now concludes “it’s a bit eerie” how similar they are. Regarding the difficult decisions that Williams had to make when creating The Temptations, Baskin says he “understands where he’s coming from, based on our personalities.”
Of course, the world could have been robbed of Baskin’s artistic talents had he followed his original path. When I bring up his degree in Biology, the actor laughs. “This life is just so interesting. It can be such an adventure if you just allow life to present opportunities.” He originally planned on being a doctor, but decided to pursue his love of singing before entering medical school. Initially he planned on singing jingles for commercials, but a surprise callback for “Rent” changed his trajectory. When Baskin saw the iconic show, his first experience with Broadway, he thought “I can do that.” Broadway he says, “was a dream that kind of found me.”
Since then, Baskin has performed in several Broadway shows, including “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” and Best Musical winner “Memphis.” But Otis Williams is the actors’ first leading role on Broadway. He details the physical stamina required for the task (he never leaves the stage during the musical’s 2 hour and 30 minute run time) but also claims that he must be “equipped emotionally and spiritually.” Williams is the last surviving original Temptation, and Baskin must remain grounded while he navigates the singer’s heavy losses and honors the real life men portrayed on stage.
It all leads to a profound final moment, where Baskins’ Williams explodes emotionally on stage after saying goodbye to each of his fellow Temptations. Baskin describes being able to feel the emotion of the audience in that moment. “That’s when I know if the audience has gone along with me on the journey.” The show delves into harder subject matter than your typical jukebox musical, and the actor notes that this moment of high emotions has a healing quality to it, not only for the character, but for the actor and audience as well. Art, he says, “can help you escape your reality, but also help you deal with your reality.”
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