Photo by Jenny Anderson
Get ready, ‘cause here they come! Broadway.com is taking a deep dive into some of the musical icons who grace the stage in Motown: The Musical, which charts the life of Motown mogul Berry Gordy. Next up in our Legends of Motown series is Bryan Terrell Clark, who makes his Broadway debut as Marvin Gaye. Known as the "Prince of Soul," Gaye helped form the early sounds of Motown and then became one of the first artists to break away from the company. Read on for Clark’s take on the soulful and politically active crooner!
Name: Bryan Terrell Clark
Age & Hometown: I’m an 80s baby, born in the "Wire," Baltimore City.
Role: I have the honor and privilege of playing the Prince of Soul, Marvin Gaye.
First/fondest memory of your icon: My fondest memory of Marvin Gaye happened during the rehearsal process of Motown: the Musical. I attended the Against Gun Violence service at the Middle Collegiate Church on January 20. I did not have a personal relationship to the topic, other than being "against gun violence," generally speaking. I sang “What’s Going On” and really felt Marvin’s spirit with me. For some reason I felt solemn and peaceful that day. I had no idea that a week later, my cousin (who felt more like a brother) would be shot down in senseless gun violence in Baltimore. I missed a few days of rehearsal to attend his funeral, and when I returned to New York, the first song I sang in rehearsal was “What’s Going On.” The same feeling came over me. Marvin Gaye was so prophetic in his music—he still is! The feeling comes over me every time I sing that song. "Brother, brother, brother…there’s far too many of you dying…."
Favorite song sung by your icon: I LOVE Marvin Gaye’s music, so my favorite song changes week to week. Last week it was “Ego Tripping Out.” The week before was “I Want You” and this week it’s “After the Dance.”
What does it mean to you to be playing your icon? Playing this role is an answered prayer. I was a member of the Temptations during my first Lab, and then had the opportunity to play Marvin. After the final Lab, I auditioned three more times for the role. I prayed and had faith! I wasn’t giving up on this one! I got the news on a Friday…three days before we started rehearsal!
Most surprising fact you learned about your icon: He was seen as a sex symbol and felt he was a slave to the title.
Hardest thing about playing your icon: The hardest thing is that he is an icon! Unfortunately, he is no longer with us, so I wasn’t able to speak directly with him about his life and my portrayal. His life and music relate to me in a very specific way. Marvin’s music covered a wide range of topics. He changed and shifted so much through his whole career, and depending on your vantage point, Marvin Gaye may be someone very different to you than he is to me. In my process, I battled with trusting the Marvin I wanted to portray—the Marvin most honest to me. I was consumed and obsessed with his work and his life. I had to learn to trust the Marvin that was speaking to me.
Easiest thing about playing your icon: Three things made this process easier than others: 1. I had many of the living Motown family and friends to share stories and memories with me. I’d watch their eyes as they went back in time and relived moments. After seeing my performance, many of them said, “You’ve got Marvin down” or “I felt like I was watching Marvin.” Those moments mean a lot to me. 2. I had an ample amount of resource material to study; countless books, documentaries, and music continue to surround me. It’s as if he is in the air around me. 3. I have so many similarities to the man! We are both Aries and our birthdays are just a few days apart. The more I learn about him, the more I find we are alike.
Which of your icon’s songs do you sing in the show? I sing “Stubborn Kind of Fellow,” “What’s Going On,” “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” and “Mercy Mercy Me.”
If you could meet your icon, what would you say to him? If he were still alive, the first thing I would say to Marvin Gaye is thank you. Thank you for the heart in your music and your transparency as an artist.
One word to describe your icon: Only one word? Aw, man! I guess I would say soulful!
Click here for more Legends of Motown profiles!