It's not an easy character to grasp in this day and age, ... But Harrison is a very specific and interesting actor. Within his performance, he has a way of winking at the audience and letting them know he is manipulating the old captain.
The show should be entertaining and funny and thrilling theatrically but also bring out the sociopolitical aspects of Ossie's story, ... We didn't want to treat it as dated material but rather as material of a certain time that is also relevant and important today. It's not simply a museum piece.
Ossie's point of view was that if you pushed everybody to their limits and made the racists the worst racists in the world and made the Uncle Tom the worst Uncle Tom, that all of it would be so ridiculous that you could laugh it out of existence, ... But along with this humor, there are some very, very serious political points being made.
They really adore each other offstage and have a very similar sense of humor. These are qualities they bring onstage, and that makes for a very real relationship.
I was very taken with the tremendous energy of it, ... It had this great gospel-tinged opening number and all those wonderful performers with great energy and skill. It was a great moment for me and certainly one of the shows that made me love going to the theater.
It's great because I can cast the show so well, ... But it's a little sad in that there are so many black actors, especially in the musical theater arena, who do not get the opportunities they deserve.