Home Interviews Exclusive Interview with One of the Most Talented Canadian Actors: Christian Paul
Exclusive Interview with One of the Most Talented Canadian Actors: Christian Paul PDF Print E-mail
Written by Patricia Turnier   
Monday, 28 July 2014 19:20

From left to right:  Lindsay Owen Pierre (as Malcolm X), Christian Paul (as Dr.  Martin Luther King and Kareem Tristan Alleyne
(as Rashad, the bodyguard of Malcolm X)

Christian Paul was born in 1973 at Montreal’s Notre-Dame Hospital.  He has Haitian and Quebecer origins.  His birthday, May 18th, is an important date for Haiti -- the first Black republic in the Americas – as it represents the celebration of the country’s flag.  Christian Paul is a multilingual film and television actor.  He appeared in French and English productions in Canada since 1998, when he started to act professionally.  Prior to this, he was a tennis player.  His father taught him the sport at the age of 7, and tennis became a big part of his life till his mid-20s. He was a junior national doubles champion. At 17, he obtained a full tennis scholarship at the University of Louisiana in Monroe, and played NCAA tennis for four years, being named athlete of the year as a junior as well as a senior.  Christian Paul completed his undergraduate degree in Communications.  Hence, he developed an interest in film, television and theatre. He decided to come to Montreal to totally devote himself to theatre and acting. After attending the Dawson theatre program in Montreal, he began his career as an actor. In the late 90s, he became a frequent collaborator to Untimely Ripped Theatre, a Montreal based company that created original theatre in and out of the city. There, he penned, and co-directed his first play called 2000 televisions.

Paul got his first role in a major Hollywood film in George Clooney's 2002 directorial debut, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind with Drew Barrymore among other actors.  Christian Paul played a dating game contestant in this movie.  This part became one of many in big budget movies.  Hence, he played other roles such as an archaeologist in Richard Donner's Timeline, featuring Gerard Butler, Paul Walker and a Shakespearian actor in the 2004 film, Wicker Park with Rose Byrne.

In 2006, Christian Paul was Stéphanie Lapointe's love interest in Sylvain Archambault's Le Négociateur which became a critically acclaimed French series and won multiple awards. It also showcased Paul's great ability to adopt accents, as he portrayed a 70s American draft dodger.  Moreover, Christian Paul got involved with the world of documentary narration. He turned out to be a frequent collaborator to Hydro-Quebec's electrical plant educational series. Since then, he participated in Jean Lemire's 1000 Days for the Planet series as well as several others.  Christian Paul has also collaborated in the great Montreal video game boom of the late 2000s, lending his voice to several blockbuster videogames such as Shaun White, Deus X, Michael Jackson the Experience and Assassin's Creed IV:  Freedom Cry in which he portrayed the role of Augustin Dieufort in Ubisoft’s latest videogame.  The beginning of the 2010s became a busy period for Paul as he got many roles in TV, film and video games. He played police detectives in Incendo's Willed to Kill, and the Indie film, Discopathe.

In early 2014, Christian Paul portrayed Dr.  King at the Centre Segal, a Jewish organisation, where we saw him for Jeff Stetson’s play entitled The Meeting, a  fascinating theatre production that illuminates an imaginary clandestine dialogue and debate between Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  In reality, Dr. King and Malcolm X only met once, briefly, on March 26, 1964, in Washington. Few words were exchanged and they never spoke to each other again.  One thing they had in common, as famous Black civil rights leaders, was they were both ready to die for their cause. Malcolm X was killed the following year, on February 21st 1965. Dr.  King was murdered four years later, on April 4th 1968.  Both died at the age of 39 after facing intense personal stress and hardships.

Stetson’s play is based on many of the actual words of the two men, and brings a fascinating insight into their personas.  The play was based on real events that occurred over seven years of the two men’s lives.  The Meeting is among the most important American pieces related to the history of the U.S.  After years, this play is still alive and will remain relevant in the future.  It is a classic and a masterpiece that will stay immortal.  The heated debate ''The Meeting'' occurs in 1965 in Malcolm X's room at the Hotel Theresa in Harlem, NY. Dr. King's visit, at Malcolm X's invitation, irks Malcolm X's Black Muslim bodyguard who only wants to protect his boss. Unfortunately, the leader was assassinated later.  The play deals with the complexities of both legendary men, who were far from one-dimensional.  Furthermore, it covers their disagreements over principles, the pain and struggle related to the Black condition and their contrasting strategies to combat racism.  The piece also contains some humor, which is done very astutely, because the circumstances are intense and highly serious issues are debated between the icons.

Both eloquent men from completely different backgrounds:  not just economically, but also socially, religiously, geographically, environmentally, and historically.  Malcolm X was considered as a champion of defiance and Dr.  King an apostle of peace.  Malcolm X’s father, Earl Little was a Baptist minister and worked for Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA).  The minister’s home was burned to the ground by White racists in retribution for his involvement in Garvey’s pan-African Black independence faction.  While his wife was pregnant with Malcolm X, Earl Little was murdered under mysterious circumstances.  This event was later reported by Malcolm X, who suspected that the KKK was involved in the assassination of his father.  After this tragedy, his family split up and Malcolm X’s mother, Louisa Little, ended up in a state mental institution after suffering a nervous breakdown after writhing for years to fend for herself and her eight children.  Malcolm X was forced to live in a detention home managed by a racist White couple.  He became an eighth grade drop-out (after his dream of being a lawyer was shattered by a White teacher) and later entered the underground world of criminality. In a Playboy interview with Alex Haley (in May 1963), Malcolm X said the following words, which illustrate his vision of the social condition of Blacks living in slums:  

“At the bottom of the social heap is the black man in the big-city ghetto. He lives night and day with the rats and cockroaches and drowns himself with alcohol and anesthetizes himself with dope to try to forget where and what he is. That Negro has given up all hope. He’s the hardest one for us to reach because he’s deepest in the mud. But when you get him, you get the best kind of Muslim. Because he makes the most drastic change. He’s the most fearless. He will stand the longest. He has nothing to lose, even his life, because he didn’t have that in the first place. I look upon myself, sir, as a prime example of this category – and as graphic an example as you could find of the salvation of the black man”.

In contrast, Dr.  King came from an upper middle-class family where intellectualism was encouraged and valued since his formative years.  Malcolm X, because of his background, was in favor of self-sufficiency and economic empowerment for the Black community.  He believed in self defense, guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the American Constitution that gives the right to carry arms.  Dr. King bolstered the non-violence philosophy inspired by Gandhi.  Both men sought fairness for the disenfranchised in their own ways.  In Stetson’s play, the two men’s different philosophies clash.  For instance, Malcolm X questions Dr.  King’s knowledge (because he perceives him in a way as a “buppie”) of the social conditions of Blacks, who are not middle-class or part of the bourgeoisie.  In other words, he challenges Dr.  King’s awareness and understanding of the problems met by the less fortunate Black Americans. As mentioned, Dr.  King came from an upper-middle class background in Atlanta, Georgia.  Since his childhood, he was taught to be knowledgeable of what was going on in the world.  Dr.  King, a prodigy, entered Morehouse College at age 15 and earned a B.A. in sociology in 1948.   Later, he obtained his Ph.D. in systematic theology at 26 from Boston University.  

Malcolm X had his intellectual awakening much later in life when he ended up in prison and evolved throughout the years in terms of race relations, especially after his pilgrimage to Mecca.   Here is an excerpt of what he wrote to Alex Haley about his trip to South Arabia:  

“I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass, prayed to the same God, with fellow Muslims whose eyes were the bluest of blue, whose hair was the blondest of blond, whose skin was the whitest of white, and truly were all the same”.  

Thus, after his pilgrimage, Malcolm X became a new man  with a new name, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz.  He founded the Organization of Afro-American Unity, a non-sectarian and non-religious group.  

It is amazing that The Meeting was the directorial play debut of Quincy Armorer, from the Black Theater Workshop (www.blacktheatreworkshop.ca) created in 1972.  The people who starred in the play were:  Kareem Tristan Alleyne (as Rashad, the fictional bodyguard of Malcolm X), Christian Paul (as Dr. King) and Lindsay Owen Pierre (as Malcolm X) who had already starred as Malcolm X in Betty & Coretta, with Angela Bassett and Mary J Blige.  The advisory board for the play was also full of notable:  Jean Franz Benjamin of Haitian origins who became the first Black male city councillor in Montreal in 2009, the famous jazz pianist/composer Dr.  Oliver Jones, the singer Lorraine Klaasen who speaks more than seven languages, and the jazz performer Ranee Lee who was nominated for a Juno Award (which are the equivalent of the Grammys in the United States.) in Canada.  Mrs.  Lee also acted with Billy Dee Williams in Giant Steps.  

It would be great one day to see The Meeting adapted into a movie and to produce the female version of The Meeting between Betty Shabbazz and Coretta Scott King. In other words, a fictional debate should be created between Betty Shabbazz and Coretta Scott King, who were brilliant and accomplished women in their own right.  In their discussion, they could share their perceptions of the struggles of Black women and how they intertwine with the mainstream society.  

Stetson’s play, meanwhile, should be translated into several languages.  It is one of the most powerful and poignant American dramatic pieces ever made.  Furthermore, it provides a lot of insight into the two characters. It is touching, won’t let anybody indifferent and encourages debates.  It brings to the forefront many issues related to the depth of race relations.  The drama evokes strong emotions and tensions that can be felt by myriad of audiences.  In fact, the play should be showcased worldwide.  

Here is what the media wrote about the theatrical production throughout the years:  "An exciting and provocative play, an unforgettable evening of drama" —NY Post, "Stirring moments of impassioned rhetoric you feel as if you've watched a kind of human-scale wrestling with angels" —San Francisco Examiner, "A remarkable, intensely intimate meeting full of undisguised competitiveness, deep passion and potent reasoning THE MEETING is enthralling" —Chicago Sun Times.

It is important to note that the dramatist, Jeff Stetson, is an American playwright and novelist whose first play, The Meeting, received the Louis B.  Mayer Award, eight 1987 NAACP Theater Image Awards, including Best Play and Best Writer, six New York AUDELCO nominations, and the list goes on.  Mr.  Stetson adapted the piece to critical praise for an American Playhouse, which was televised nationwide on PBS in May of 1989 and directed by Bill Duke.  It was awarded an Emmy Award for technical achievement.  Stetson has also worked on diverse feature movies such as, Keep the Faith:  The Story of Adam Clayton Powell and Kevin Hooks’ Passenger 57 starring Wesley Snipes.  Stetson created a stage play entitled The Apology commissioned by Dr.  Bill Cosby among others. Stetson obtained his undergraduate degree in Psychology from Framingham State College, where he was also bestowed an honorary degree, Doctor of Letters, in June of 1993.  He received his master’s degree at Boston University, in Public Policy Analysis and Social Change Theory.

Mr.  Paul was glad to return to BTW for the opportunity to portray the iconic Dr.  King.  He also played at BTW, in Lorraine Hansberry’s classic A Raisin in the Sun, where he performed the role of Bobo.  Throughout the years, he has been involved in numerous other theatrical productions, as well as dozens of films, and TV shows.  His latest works include the French TV series Le Gentlemen III and La Vie Parfaite.  

As mentioned, our webmag Mega Diversities was present for the presentation during the Black History Month.  Both actors Lindsay Owen Pierre and Christian Paul, who played Malcolm X and Dr. King respectively, have 15 years of acting experience and it showed in the high caliber performance they delivered.  Kareem Tristan Alleyne is a promising and talented young actor who played Malcolm X’s bodyguard, Rashad, a fictional character abovementioned.  Alleyne performed in the school production Les Misérables among others, and has been acting for more than ten years.  Stetson’s play is one of his latest works.  

The eloquence of the ensemble’s performance was staggering.  The characters were shown in a natural and convincing manner.  The Meeting received praise from one of the top newspapers in Quebec, The Gazette.  The piece has been performed in several places in North America since the play’s inception and is used as a teaching tool in schools.

Overall, Paul’s pied-à-terre is in Montreal, Canada, especially since recently becoming a father.  He is one of the most promising actors in Canada, and can have an international career given that he speaks several languages.  He is an actor par excellence.  Moreover, he is multitalented – after all, he was an endowed tennis player; he has been involved in multiple projects in the music industry, and so on.  Thus, he wears many hats.  He is a TV, film, voice, songwriter, theatre actor, and musician (he plays the guitar). As an artist, he has composed two albums (one with The Free Oxygen Band (created in 2002 by Paul) entitled “Funkosynthesis” in 2006 and one solo CD called “Pneumatika” in 2009) and performed for them.  Furthermore, he wrote plays and short films, as well as contributed to film scores.

Throughout the years, he has been involved in many theatrical productions, and dozens of films and TV shows.  In 2008, he played a navigator in the action-packed Death Race. His next big role came in 2009, when he played a supporting role in The Last Templar, alongside Mira Sorvino and Scott Foley. The mini-series was based on Raymond Khoury's bestseller eponym novel.  That year marked a return to the theatre for Paul as he performed in the one act play, In the Solitude of Cotton Fields, written by Bernard-Marie Koltès. The piece was directed by Anita Rochon and produced by The National Theatre School of Canada (NTS). It was performed in Montreal and Toronto.

In 2009, he portrayed a real-life figure for the first time. In a short film, directed by Ari Cohen, he paid homage to Canadian Jazz great Jackie Washington. That same year, he was also offered a recurring part in the French TV series, Le Gentleman, a show that would continue for three seasons. He returned to the theatre again in 2010 in Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun produced by the Black Theatre Workshop and presented at the Centaur Theatre.  More recently, as mentioned he embodied with excellence Dr.  King in Stetson’s play.  Paul, with Lindsay Owen Pierre, delivered a performance worthy of a Tony award.  Currently, Paul is involved in the Disney film called Bad Hair Day where he plays the love interest of Leigh-Allyn Baker and he will be shooting a mini-series called The Fixer.  Both projects are due in 2015.

The Meeting toured Montreal-area schools and was presented by the Black Theatre Workshop during Black History Month from February 22nd till March 1st 2014.  The event was sponsored by the Canadian bank TD, Videotron and the Cole Foundation.  As abovementioned, the play took place at the Segal Centre Performing Arts (segalcentre.org) in Montreal.  In the following interview, Christian Paul talks about his performance for The Meeting and discusses his professional life.  This is Christian Paul’s first-in-depth-web exclusive interview which was conducted this summer.


P.T.  You were a tennis player before.  What made you become an actor later? 

C.P.  I started Tennis when I was quite young. At 11, I was already in a boarding school in Ontario playing in a tennis academy. My goal was to become a pro. All this training and all those tournaments led to a NCAA scholarship at a university in Louisiana. It was then, that I realized I was interested in a lot more than just sports. I switched my major from business to liberal arts and discovered that I loved theatre and film. After a semester or two of being a tech in small productions, I became much more interested in performing. I liked being in control of myself and not the technical stuff.

P.T.  What actors did you admire growing up, and why?

C.P.  I was a big Jack Nicholson fan, I liked those 70s movies such as Easy Rider, Chinatown and Taxi Driver. I liked the space, realism and poetry of movies in the 70s. I thought Nicholson was so interesting and watchable. When you are new to acting, you have a tendency to gravitate towards the more famous actors:  De Niro, Pacino, Gary Oldman. It’s only later that I discovered the great unknown actors. Now, I am watching the world cup in soccer, and I’ve never seen such great acting. I should get my characters from there.

P.T.  [Laughs].  What was instrumental in your professional pathway that prepared you to play the legendary role of Dr.  King in Stetson’s play?  Feel free also to share with us what you experienced on a personal level to interpret Dr.  King, since a high dose of maturity is required to portray his persona?

C.P.  I have always been very curious about religion and spirituality, and became even more interested around 24. I had a sort of spiritual awakening that led me to study the great religions and the other movements that are off the beaten path. That was one of the starting points in understanding Dr. King. When you know how powerful religion can be in people’s lives, you develop a different perception. When religion is practiced with lazy intellectual effort, it can be devastating. When religion is aligned with true spirituality, which I would describe as a type of reasoned faith, life takes on a completely different aspect. Understanding Dr. King’s faith was the gateway to grasp his sense of mission, his faith, his patience, his drive and his conflicts. He was brought up into Baptist church royalty, and so his destiny was sealed. He aligned this fate with his will and became the man we admire today. Also, it is important to mention that I lived four years in Louisiana. For the first time in my life, I understood how it felt to be thought of as inferior, on a daily basis. Once you live in the Deep South and have seen Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, Arkansas and all the states in the Bible belt, you seize the forces at play.

P.T.  How did you prepare for the role (maybe watching documentaries, movie, etc.), and how was the process of studying Dr.  King’s verbal and non-verbal communications?  In other words, talk to us about the research, the rehearsals, the memorization of the lines, and so on.  In addition, can you tell us how long it took you to tame the character?

C.P.  I watched all the footage I could find. You Tube has become the great world archive.  I also had a couple of biographies and speeches of Dr.  King that helped for timelines.  I started with the voice, I had to learn to place it deep inside my neck and keep my larynx open. The great challenge in playing characters like Dr. King, Malcolm X or other important political figures is that they gave speeches almost on a daily basis. One, they had a heightened level of oration and it is also hard to picture them in everyday life. Like, “Honey where did you put the toilet paper?”

The intellectual understanding of the man was well understood by the time we took the stage. The emotional journey of the play was always a challenge. The pièce can be very heady if you are not emotionally available to deliver the full impact of the words.
I was cast quite late into the production. I only had two weeks of research before the rehearsal process. It took about three weeks to learn the lines. The total rehearsal was four weeks.

It is always a matter of degrees to tame the role.  Some mornings I woke up, and felt his presence strongly, other mornings I didn't. But, from the very first performance, I was already pretty comfortable, and felt I was doing him justice.

P.T.  The director of the play, Quincy Armorer, said to the media that during the rehearsals of The Meeting there were some heated discussions on the set.  Do you mind sharing some of them with us?

C.P.  Part of the problem stemmed from the fact that the meeting never took place. So we weren’t playing characters in a world that never existed.  We were playing real life figures in an imaginary situation. So, it was always, “How would Martin react to abuse from Malcolm,” or “Does Malcolm really hate Martin or does he respect him”? So we had to transpose a pattern of behavior that we saw in a video or read about in a book, to a hypothetical situation. Of course, the text usually steers you in the right pocket, but you have to be able to explore the possibilities. A lot of times during the play, I thought Malcolm was crazy, then I’d wake up in a bad mood on another morning and wanted to lash out just like Malcolm.

The debates I had with Lindsay Owen Pierre (who played Malcolm X) before, during and after rehearsal were particularly stimulating. He leaned toward Malcolm’s philosophy and I adhered toward Dr. King’s. So, our discussions were often about ideological rifts between both men.  Rare are the life stories that take on such epic proportions between two polarizing figures; one is from the South, the other from the North, one is Baptist, the other Muslim, One promotes self-defense, the other promotes self-control. It was almost necessary for Black people to have both figures in order to be able to choose one. And blessed were the ones who could take the best of both. The main thing that struck me about Dr. King was his implacable patience, the other was his conflicting nature involving; drink, food, sex and cigarettes.

P.T.  What legacy do you think Dr.  King and Malcolm X left to America and the world?  Moreover, since you portrayed Dr.  King, what does he mean to you?

C.P.  The world will never be the same. The marches, the speeches, the assassinations; they are all recorded. They are part of history. The world of those visionary men has come to pass. Dr. King and X, achieved so much in creating positive role models for African-Americans, for Whites and other “minorities”. They proved that African-Americans could unite for a single purpose, reclaim their dignity, and become beacons of light to show us the true value of the human spirit. It proved that Whites could see the error in their ways and stand up against injustice when they didn’t really have to. Paraphrasing a line from the play, “The two men put up a mirror in front of the world, so the world could see its own injustice.” Dr. King was human, and his personal conflicts only make me respect more what he tried to accomplish. He has made me more patient and more compassionate toward people that don’t understand.

P.T.  Dr.  King in the Stetson’s play raised this question to Malcolm X:  don't you think we've made any progress in America (in terms of race-relations)?  What do you think would be the answer from both men if they were alive today?  In other words, how do you deem both men would assess and reflect on the current situation of Black America?

C.P.  Despite all the good resulting from those two iconic figures, you could argue that all these movements only served to democratize suffering or poverty. You could say that now, oppression is not only reserved for the Black man, it is spread throughout the world, looking to exploit anyone or anything. It turns out that racism was just a great excuse. Now, inequality can reach anyone, no matter what color.  

Having said that, “visible minorities” will always be at odds with a predominantly “White” society. We must have a good look at history to really understand how badly slavery and segregation has hurt African-Americans. For example, the American industrial revolution of the mid-century turned the United States into a world superpower and brought up the standard of living to more than half of all Americans, providing them with a chance to own a house, a better education and discretionary income. The middle class was born. Many don’t realize that numerous African-Americans did not enjoy those benefits. Instead the ghettos were truly institutionalized.  That is the real tragedy.   In addition, not many African-Americans profited from affirmative-action.  For instance, not even 8% among them are in Ivy Leagues and financially speaking it is far from being easy for them to have access to these Universities. So, some people could argue successfully that Dr. King and Malcolm X didn’t change anything and there is still significant iniquity. However, the rise of the Hip-Hop entrepreneur is a phenomenon that I watch out of the corner of my eye. Some brothers are billionaires now, that could not have happened before. It better trickle down.  I mean, I hope it benefits others who are less fortunate.

P.T.  If Dr.  King and Malcolm X were with us nowadays, what do you think are the main issues that would preoccupy them in the U.S. and internationally?

C.P.  Same as before: racism, poverty, drugs, education and war. Dr. King’s downfall, in my opinion was when he took on the Vietnam War. That’s when Lyndon Johnson went from “Hello, Martin, to “ Now, that Ni_____.” That is when he became persona non grata, and they got rid of him soon after. But, that’s for the conspiracy section of the interview, which we won’t go into. He was already moving toward more universal movements like the Poor People’s Campaign, before he died. And Malcolm was also changing to a less militant approach.

P.T.  However, I think Malcolm X became a problem to the establishment when he urged several African heads of state to sanction America in the United Nations and wanted a call for an international tribunal on human rights, in other words a plebiscite.   He was murdered before this plan materialized.

P.T.  Stetson’s play discloses opposite doctrines shared by two icons.  It is not the first time in the history of Black America that bipolar visions coexisted.  For instance, circa one hundred years ago, there was W.E.B.  DuBois versus Booker T.  Washington.  How do you explain this phenomenon?

C.P.  Every person fights according to their own strengths.  You have to make an impact where you think you can.  Each person has their own psychological make-up.  It is not my place to sit there and judge or make a critique. You have to be true to your nature. Like any other man, the Black man is his own man. Where people see opposites, I see two different people trying a different method.

P.T.  Stetson’s play highlights several elements that separated both men:  social class, education, religion, and so on.  In your opinion, which point created the biggest rift between them, and why?

C.P.  I think, self-defense vs self-control was the main point of contention. Malcolm was ready to take up arms against the oppressor and Dr. King wanted the world to witness how spiritual a man could be. This debate is a vortex of unfathomable proportion. The right answer can only found through a man’s own conscience. Humanity can go a lot further with the spiritual concept of turning the other cheek, but a man can quickly perish in his mortal life if he adopts that attitude.

P.T.  Arm wrestling occurs in the play between Dr.  King and Malcolm X.  It symbolically and metaphorically evokes the dichotomy and the clashes of principles between them.  Can you elaborate on that?

C.P.  The arm wrestle is a result of goading from Malcolm. It illustrates Malcolm’s physical strength and gives us a breaking point for Martin. We see how human Martin can get when he decides to arm-wrestle. We see his pride, his ego. We also observe Malcolm’s relentless desire to prove his point. A man must defend himself at one point, every man has a breaking point. Stetson uses physicality to make Man come to life, like the play, it is a representation of the greater idea, a concepts becoming real.

P.T.  You spoke a little bit about my next questions but I would like you to elaborate.  What is your position as a Black man in terms of the creeds emphasized in Stetson’s play?  In other words, do you align yourself with Dr.  King’s philosophy or Malcolm X’s? Or, do you believe in the ideology of both men?  Furthermore, please, tell us why.  

C.P.  I am definitely more Martin in my personality and upbringing. We must understand that both men were very much a product of their environment. It is no secret that Malcolm’s life was truly epic, it is a real hero’s journey. It is not a coincidence that a Hollywood  movie was made about him. He epitomized a fantastic figure. His wit, alertness and sharpness were above average. His self-discipline and commitment became a force of nature. History has a tendency to portray Dr. King as a saint, but he wasn’t. He struggled immensely. This is why, many controversies exist in terms of how to portray him fairly while still holding him up as an inspiration.

P.T.  Stetson’s play is used as an educational tool.  The dramaturge stated about his theatrical production:  "I was preparing to teach a university course on the Civil Rights Movement because I understood that the students who were not alive during that struggle knew very little about the sacrifices made, as well as the issues involved during that period".  You toured Montreal schools last winter with The Meeting.  How was it commonly received by the youth, and how familiar were they in general with the iconic figures of Dr.  King and Malcolm X?

C.P.  The response was overwhelming positive. We toured to schools that had troubled youth. There was enough grit in the play for them to relate to the debate. It was especially in those schools, that I felt emotionally compelled to get through to them. We also toured to private all-girl schools. They were captivated and understood the extent of the debate. In those schools, we showed them a world that was extremely real and they could relate to that as well.

Some of the students had been “prepped” beforehand on the topic, as it was given during Black History Month. Most of them had a vague notion of both men. Only a few students had in depth knowledge of the intensity of the struggle. The play needs reflection and I'm sure more students would have had questions after a period of time.

For my part, I would like to say that I was familiar with the two men. There was a strong Malcolm X movement at my university in the 90s. I had heard speeches and seen the movie. I didn't quite have the maturity to understand the implications and the times. As far as Dr.  King, I had read Coretta King's biography a long time ago.

P.T.  Based on the comments you heard from the young people, can you share what in your understanding the two men represent to them?  In addition, how does their fictional debate speak to their lives?

C.P.  From the response, we could discern that the debate was very much alive today. For example, self-control vs self-defense can be directly applied to bullying. Every student can relate to conflict, and how to react to it. However, I cannot for now elaborate more because unfortunately, we didn’t have time to talk to the students in-depth. Most of them were quiet during the Q&A.

P.T.  Maybe it is because the play is so powerful that the audience becomes speechless.

P.T.  Many people and I are amazed to see how theatrical actors can memorize an hour and more worth of lines for a play, in a way so that their portrayal of the characters looks totally natural.  Can you share with aspiring actors what they need to do to achieve this level of performance and how they can avoid blackouts?

C.P.  The relentless rehearsal of scenes helps you learn your lines for at least 90% of the play. It is amazing how fast we learned the pièce that way. After roughly two and a half weeks, we were practically “off-book”. You don’t memorize lines, you memorize ideas. In this case, when Malcolm or Martin makes a point, you have to know exactly how to respond to it. This is what makes learning lines easier, knowing how to answer to another person’s thought, comment, question or attack. As far as blackouts, they happen, and they will happen. When you perform with confidence and have a true motivation behind your lines and character, the rest usually follows. When the GPS breaks, you rely on the hundred times you have been to that place. Of course, confidence builds with time. Lindsay and I have performed hundreds of shows.

P.T.  You performed in the classic A Raisin in the Sun.  Can you share with us if there is any other play you would love to star in, and why?

C.P.  Many years ago, I started a rehearsal for the play called Topdog/ Underdog. Unfortunately, I had to pull out because I had to go to Los Angeles to audition for an Ed Zwick’s pilot.  I went through a tumultuous casting process.  When I returned, the director had decided to cast Kwasi Songui in both parts.  The play was turned into a long monologue.  I would love to participate in that piece again because the characters are challenging and the story is a compelling.

P.T.  You are also a songwriter and a musician.  Do you have any interesting musical projects in mind for the future?

C.P.  Lindsay and I were in a Funk band many years ago which is why performing together is second nature.  Unfortunately, life decided to take us in different directions. I have a small project studio in my home and use it as my personal laboratory. In honor of Dr. King, I called it Ebenezer church. I am always writing and producing songs whenever I can. I have enough material for a third album, but time is scarce and the reality of the music business has changed tremendously. We are in an era of singles, so once in a while I put out individual songs. Music is still my greatest meditation.

P.T.  Thanks Mr.  Paul for this great interview and for your thorough answers!  I wish you a lot more success in your career.

The Meeting can be bought on www.amazon.com or .ca


2013 Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag - Freedom Cry (Video Game) - Augustin Diefort (voice)

2013 Discopathe - Detective Willis

2013 Warm Bodies - Stadium Soldier

2012 Willed to Kill (TV Movie) - Agent Harris

2012 Assassin's Creed III: Liberation (Video Game) - George Davidson (voice)

2012 Wolverine Hotel (Short)

2010-2011 Blue Mountain State (TV Series) - Security Guard / Chase

2011 The Peak  - Security Guard

2011 Deus Ex: Human Revolution (Video Game) - Additional Voices (voice)

2011 Tin Soldier (Short)

2010 There's Only One Second Best - Chase

2010 Dead Lines (TV Movie) - Keenan

2010 Krach - Employé

2010 Peepers - Gogo

2009 The Foundation (TV Series) - Waiter

2009 The Homeless Challenge - Waiter

2009 The Last Templar (TVV Mini-Series) - Nick Aparo

2009 3 saisons - Yan B

2008 Death Race - Joe's Navigator

2008 Course à la mort

2007 Les hauts et les bas de Sophie Paquin (TV Series) - Laurent

2007 Rêver en couleur - Laurent

2007 Alone in the Dark - Jackie Washington

2006-2007 Rumours (TV Series) - Tristan

2007 Unforgettable - Tristan

2007 Durham County (TV Series) - Cliff

2007 Dark Man (TV Series) - Cliff

2006 A Good Man is hard to find - Tristan

2006 Le négociateur (TV Series) - Dylan

2006 No Man's Land - Dylan

2006 Dans la guerre des clans - Dylan

2006 La petite victoire - Dylan

2006 My First Wedding - Steve

2006 Last Exit (TV Movie) - Greg/Courier

2006 Time Bomb (TV Movie) - Young Bar Patron

2005 The Festival (TV Series) - Malcolm Brandt

2005 Slow Burn - Rupert Greems

2005 Rencontre à Wicker Park

2005 11 Somerset (TV Series) Anthony Murat

2005 Night Visitors - Anthony Murat

2004 Wicker Park - Orsino

2004 L'appartement - Orsino

2004 Ciao Bella (TV Series) - D.J.  Stookey

2004 Connections ... D.J.  Stookey

2004 Naked Josh (TV Series) -  Cha

2004 My First Wedding - Steve

2004 Domme & Dommer - Cha

2003 Timeline - Archaeologist

2003 Nightlight (TV) - Mr.  Antoine

2003 Prisonniers du temps

2002 Confessions d'un homme dangereux - Black Bachelor

2002 Seriously Weird (TV Series) - Ron

2002 Undressed (TV Series) - Seth

2002 Ticket to Ride - Seth

2002 Jack & Ella - Short Black Man

2002 Looking for Leonard - Student # 2

2002 Abandon - Recovering Alcoholic Member

2002 Redeemer (TV Movie) - Kendall

2001 Nowhere in Sight - Pizza Delivery Boy

2001 Hidden Agenda - Charlie Radisson

2000 Tag (TV Series) - Vince Legris

2000 Les fantômes de Noël (TV Movie) - Lance

2000 The List - Teenager # 2

2000 La promesse (Short) - Didier

2000 Satan's School for Girls (TV Movie) - T.J.

2000 Nowhere in Sight - Pizza Delivery Boy

2001 A Diva's Christmas Carol (TV) - Lance

1999 The Hunger (TV Series) - Leon

1999 Sin Seer - Leon

1999 The Collectors (TV Movie) - Lyla's pimp

1998 Au bout du couloir (Short)

1998 Out of Control - Gas Station Attendant