We caught up with Matt Henry who will be playing soul icon Sam Cooke this June in our production of One Night in Miami… Matt tells us how he has been preparing to play such a well known figure.
My name is Matt Henry and I’m playing Sam Cooke
You play Sam Cooke who was a soul music legend. What attracted you to this role and the show?
I loved the story! The fact that these four iconic black men in 1964 actually hung out in room in Miami on the night that Cassius Clay beats Sonny Liston. WOW! I wanted to be a part of that fly on wall experience. Stepping back in time, looking at who they were and their experience of black America during the civil rights movements. I had always been a massive fan of Sam Cooke’s music as young child and his touch song “Change is Gonna Come’ has always resonated with me.
How have you been preparing for the role of Sam Cooke?
You could say I had always had a really passion for his music growing up as a child, which led me to want to know more about his life. I started researching and began writing a play about Sam and his relationship with music and religion. Sam had started as a gospel artist before crossing over to sing pop music. He was the first African American to have a number one hit on both the RnB and pop charts with his rendition of ‘You send me’. Sam was a trailblazer when it came to the music business he took back control of his creative destiny by owing the masters and publishing to all his music. I found his story so interesting.
Do you feel any pressure portraying such an icon?
I think there is always pressure to emulate any iconic figure. As an actor you want to bring them alive and show different facets of their lives, emotions and physicality. You also strive to want to do a good job and not just be bad impersonator. To me Sam was more than just a singer, he was a son, brother, father, friend, like all us he had his flaws. This allows an actor to make his character on the page come alive.
Why should people come and see the show?
I think this is a great historical moment in history and the play manages to capture that. From the Beatles to the Rolling stones to the death of President Kennedy. Kemp has set up a perfect backdrop to weave these four men’s life story into. The play deals with some very strong themes to do with racial discrimination and white privilege. Two things that are currently at the forefront of the stories coming out of America and the UK today. Has the struggle ended? Does Black lives matter? Are we all fighting for the same thing but our energy and focus is sometimes misdirected? This play pushes us to hold a mirror up to 2019 and reflect on what has changed and how far we’ve still yet to go.
You can see Matt in One Night in Miami… from Friday 7 – Saturday 22 June.
Find out more and book tickets here.