Last year, I had the opportunity to play the role of Troy Maxson in August Wilson’s Fences, in two separate runs at different theatres in Oklahoma City. Before auditioning for the role, I did what any serious thespian would have done: I went to the YouTube of the Interwebs.
There I searched for actors playing the role of Troy, and lo and behold, there were two of the greatest actors – not just the greatest African American actors – in history. That’s right, James Earl Jones and Denzel Washington both played Troy Maxson in Fences on Broadway (Jones in 1987 and Washington in 2010). And, get this, both won Tony awards for their performances.
There is no comparing these two totally unique actors, yet much debate rages on about which one made the better Troy. Though I respect them both, I would personally go with James Earl Jones in this case. But you be the judge. Here now are both actors in what is perhaps the most famous scene in Fences (a scene which I flubbed on the one night the show was filmed, by the way). Like to see ‘em? Here they go:
James Earl Jones
As for me, I chose not to emulate either of these great actors. As outstanding as they are, I saw absolutely no sense in acting like somebody who’s acting like somebody else. The person I chose to emulate was good ol’ Troy Maxson himself.
Brian C. Scott