‘Hadestown’ Star Nathan Lee Graham Talks Touring, LGBTQ Representation: ‘I Could Not Double Act'
Nathan Lee Graham is crystal clear about his personal and professional identity.
"My pronouns are he, him—diva. And I'm a very proud Black gay man," he says.
If there was ever any doubt, Graham confirms the ingredients that lend themselves to the quality, consistency, and elegance synonymous with how he shows up in the world at the top of our virtual chat. Draped in all black and seated comfortably across a bright orange sofa, Graham has broken his self-imposed rule of silence during the day to speak with The Reckoning during downtime in West Palm Beach, FL, a stop before he arrives in Atlanta on the national tour of the Broadway musical "Hadestown." The 2019 Tony Award winner for Best Musical will play at Atlanta's Fox Theatre from January 10-15.
"Hadestown" tells the story of two intertwining mythical Greek tales—young dreamers Orpheus and Eurydice and King Hades and his wife Persephone—with a twist. The musical invites audiences on a hell-raising journey to the underworld and back.
A multi-hyphenate talent of the Broadway stage ("The Wild Party," "Priscilla Queen of The Desert") and screen ("Sweet Home Alabama," "HITCH"), Graham is Hermes, the show's narrator. Since joining the tour last fall, he has dazzled audiences and critics alike with show-stopping performances. "Hadestown" marks his return to the stage and touring after working successfully for years in film and television. Graham says he had something to prove by signing up to perform eight shows weekly on top of a grueling travel schedule.
"I wanted to get back on stage to see if my old ass could do it," he says jokingly. "It's been exciting and challenging being on the road after so long. The last time I was on the road, the Golden Girls were going off the air."
At the insistence of fellow actor Judith Light, Graham says it was vital for him to flex his theatre muscles again.
"I remember Judith Light saying to me once, 'Nathan, don't be away from the stage too long because it's a muscle that you'll miss, and you'll be terrified when you go back on stage if you haven't done it in a while.'"
Never one to shy away from an artistic challenge, Graham steps into Hermes following the Tony Award-winning performance by the legendary André De Shields, who originated the role on Broadway. Graham tells The Reckoning that he considers De Shields his spiritual twin.
"André is a dear friend. And my career sort of bookends with him all the time," Graham says. "Being able to do this role is a gift. And if I could emulate, imitate, anything that he's done, I will always try to do it. Of course, it's coming through my body, this vessel, so it's going to be different. But the intent will be the same," he adds. "He's a genius, and he's also very giving and supportive."
While Graham and De Shields have not been in direct contact since embarking on the tour, an embrace between the performers at New York City's Shakespeare In The Park, two weeks before Graham landed the role in "Hadestown," paired with messages of support from De Shields that has made its way back to him through mutual friends, exemplifies the type of support between the two performers that Graham says he desires for all Black gay men.
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