Actor Spotlight

Dallas actor Akron Watson channels '70s funk for Fortress of Solitude

Dallas actor Akron Watson channels '70s funk for Fortress of Solitude

"The Fortress of Solitude" at Dallas Theater Center
The Fortress of Solitude: Akron Watson is on the right. Photo by Karen Almond
"The Fortress of Solitude" at Dallas Theater Center
Now he's on the left. Keep up. Photo by Karen Almond
"To Kill a Mockingbird" at Dallas Theater Center
Watson as Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird at Dallas Theater Center. Photo by Karen Almond
"To Kill a Mockingbird" at Dallas Theater Center
Akron Watson starring in To Kill a Mockingbird. Photo by Karen Almond
"The Fortress of Solitude" at Dallas Theater Center
"The Fortress of Solitude" at Dallas Theater Center
"To Kill a Mockingbird" at Dallas Theater Center
"To Kill a Mockingbird" at Dallas Theater Center

Even if you've never read The Fortress of Solitude, the title might sound familiar. Dallas Theater Center is adapting the popular coming-of-age novel into a stage musical (which Time.com noted as one to watch), and author Jonathan Lethem visited the DMA last month to talk about the process of bringing his story from the page to the stage.

Likewise, even if you don't immediately recognize the name Akron Watson, chances are you've seen his work. The Dallas native last graced the DTC stage in Kevin Moriarty's reimagined A Christmas Carol as Bob Cratchit, and he was in 2011's To Kill a Mockingbird. But he's also popped up on practically every Dallas-Fort Worth stage from Theatre Three to Lyric Stage to Casa Mañana.

Add on a featured role in the TV series Friday Night Lights and a controversial appearance on American Idol, and Watson is a memorable performer.

Catch him in The Fortress of Solitude at Dallas Theater Center through April 6, and stay late after the show as he moderates a talk-back with the audience. Watson recently took the time to fill out our survey of serious, fun and sometimes ridiculous questions.

Name: Akron Watson

Role in The Fortress of Solitude: Subtle Distinction. I wish I could say more.

Previous work in the DFW area: So many shows I am proud of. A few are The Shipment, Undermain Theatre; Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, Theatre Three; Diary of a Worm, Dallas Children's Theater; and Fences, African American Rep.

Hometown: Right here in Dallas. Pleasant Grove, to be specific.

Where you currently reside: Old East Dallas

First theater role: Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol at my church

First stage show you ever saw: An original piece about the story of David and Goliath at my elementary school

Moment you decided to pursue a career in theater: I don't recall a specific moment. A number of people and places helped me decide — the exceptional educators at Collin County Community College, playing Mercutio in a re-envisioned version of Romeo & Juliet and super supportive parents.

Most challenging role you've played: Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird at Dallas Theater Center. He had such a beautifully simple mind and such a pivotal role in an American classic story.

Special skills: Um, singing? You can't tell from this, but I'm a pretty great writer. I'll prove that one day.

Something you're REALLY bad at: I plead the fifth!

Current pop culture obsession: Instagram! Facebook! Basically my cellphone.

Last book you read: I'm going to name drop real quick: The Actor and the Target, given to me by DTC Resident Acting Company member and SMU professor Michael Connolly. Great guy, great book.

Favorite movie(s): Epics and sci-fi, anything Marvel, all the new Batmans, Gladiator

Favorite musician(s): John Legend

Favorite song: "All of Me"

Dream role: Coalhouse in Ragtime

Favorite play(s): Tempest, All My Sons, Top Dog/Underdog, all things August Wilson

Favorite food: Salmon

Must-see TV show(s): I never watch TV.

Something most people don't know about you: People don't know those things for a reason.

Place in the world you'd most like to visit: London, Australian, Russia — all to audition.

Pre-show warm-up: "Trinida and the big Mississippi, and the town Honolulu, and the Lake Titicaca, the popacatapital is not in Canada, rather in Mexico Mexico Mexico, Canada, Malaga, Remedy Brendesey, Tibet, Tibet Tibet ..."

Favorite part about your current role: The dancing. The feeling of moving to a vibe of the '70s: funk!

Most challenging part about your current role: The dancing!

Most embarrassing onstage mishap: Once I wore boxers in a scene without a button. It was a very intimate black box theater full of family and friends. It was a really long scene. Many times in the scene I was blocked to walk downstage toward the audience and just stand and deliver. I could literally feel the eyes ...  smh ...

Career you'd have if you weren't a performer: Math teacher or accountant

Favorite post-show spot: A booth with the cast, with a table covered in Mexican food and tequila

Favorite thing about Dallas-Fort Worth: The space, the job market, the prices and DTC

Most memorable theater moment: Breaking down into tears during a rehearsal of To Kill A Mockingbird as Tom Robinson. All the pressure and power of representing a man, a family and an entire race wrapped in such a simple set of answers. The complex nature of his disposition: innocent but filled with guilt, terrified but just brave enough, tortured. It was a breakthrough for me as an actor and as a black man to find Tom Robinson and live as him onstage.