Actor Clifton Davis is charmingly ‘Wicked’

(News4usonline) – Clifton Davis has been gracing the world with his talents as an actor and entertainer for over 50 years through multiple avenues that include roles on television, in film, and doing live work on stage.

His extensive portfolio of credits includes urban sitcoms “That’s My Mama,” and “Amen,” with Sherman Hemsley, to primetime drama “Madam Secretary,” along with a brief stint inside the Marvel Cinematic Universe with his recurring role on Netflix’s “Iron Fist.”

The prolific performer has given audiences around the world a glimpse into the charming, comedic and dramatic dynamics that have offered Davis a robust and successful career in a profession that may be unforgiving to others.

His current work has taken him back to the stage to star in the hit play “Wicked,” one of the most successful musicals in the last 20 years.

Allison Bailey & Talia Suskauer in the North American Tour of WICKED (E). Photo by Joan Marcus

The touring cast has taken a brief residency in Tucson, Arizona at the Centennial Hall theater before coming to the Segerstrom Center of the Arts for a schedule from Feb. 9 through March 6.  During a phone interview, Davis talks about coming back to the show for the first time since 2009 to reprise his role as Doctor Dillamond.

Davis also discussed how he has developed his character as an actor over the years, and why “Wicked” continues to be a popular musical among audiences after all these years.

“It is so much fun doing this tour with this particular cast,” said Davis. “This group is so talented that it makes it a joy to be a part of  a wonderful company.”

 The genuine warmth of Davis’ cadence when speaking about the ensemble that creates the world of Oz can be felt over the phone. After a few years away from the stage, Davis returned to live performance in 2019 in the musical “Austen’s Pride,” then appeared as the Sultan in the Broadway production of “Aladdin.”

Davis decided to come back to the Land of Oz, reprising his role as Doctor Dillamond, an anthropomorphic talking goat who begins to explain to the green witch Elphaba that strange things are occurring in the Emerald City. The stage has been a place of comfort for Davis as pre-show jitters are no longer an issue with the veteran thespian.

Talia Suskauer & Cleavant Derricks in WICKED. Photo by Joan Marcus

“It is more excitement than nerves that I get before a performance since I work and prepare every day by reading the script and looking at every word to remind myself and hopefully remember all the things I need to know,” said Davis. “I feel fantastic.”

Doctor Dillamond is a teacher of Life Science at Shiz University which has been a role that has become natural for Davis to portray as he feels like a mentor to the younger cast members who are a part of the touring show.

“I want to teach these young actors how to embrace their characters and showcase Dr. Dillamond’s objectives,” said Davis. “Part of me wants to teach like Dr. Dillamond.”

Davis’ tremendous experience with the acting craft has lasted for five decades and has helped him better understand the complexity and nuance of encompassing the root of a character rather than merely memorizing lines.

“You have to try and understand the motives and who they really are by embracing their objectives and understand their points of views, regardless if you share their beliefs or not,” Davis remarked. “Try to gauge all that you can, it is not about acting the part, but  it’s about being the character.”

One of the significant aspects of “Wicked” has been the show’s continued dedication to inclusivity. The musical’s themes derive from an outsider not fitting into society due to the color of their skin which Davis applauded the producers for recognizing.

Talia Suskauer in the North American Tour of WICKED. Photo by Joan Marcus

“It is the policy of ‘Wicked’ to be diverse. They want to be inclusive and seek policies to embrace diversity,” said Davis. “We have weekly meetings to discuss issues that the cast and crew may have and to make changes to make a difference.”

The production’s mass appeal has made it the fifth longest running production in Broadway history that has surpassed the 19th Century French epic “Les Miserables.” The reason, Davis explains, for the show’s longevity is due to the lasting impression the audience has with its subject matter.

“The show resonates with all people, from ages eight to 80 because it speaks to the good and evil in all of us and what it means to be good,” Davis said. “It is funny and witty with great songs, talented singers and tackles issues of social change along with Issues of a leader trying to be an authoritative dictator, however, it is still light in context by not making comments or choosing sides by being entertaining and conveying timeless themes.”

Davis can currently be seen on the Epix series “Godfather of Harlem,” which has been greenlit for a third season. He also has an album “Never Can Say Goodbye,” that is available on iTunes.