By Donecia Pea • firstname.lastname@example.org
April 22, 2008
'Walking with a Panther' to open Friday at LSUS.
Hollywood actor Sy Richardson returns to Shreveport to perform in the
LSUS Black Box Theatre production of "Walking with a Panther."
The play, written by Sheri Bailey and directed by Robert Alford, opens Friday.
"Walking with a Panther" tells the fictional story of a former Black
Panther, R.J., played by local veteran actor Charles Montgomery, who
returns home to his family after spending 23 years in prison. The
play, which is for mature audiences only, shows how he and his family
adjust to his return.
Richardson, known for his recurring role as the coroner in "Pushing
Daisies," will play the role of R.J.'s father, Lt. Col. Raymond
Jackson Sr., a character he originated 20 years ago when Alford first
directed "Walking with a Panther" in Los Angeles. Richardson has also
directed the play in Los Angeles, but he still enjoys performing as
the lieutenant colonel.
"During the time (Lt. Col. Jackson) was in service, there weren't too
many African- Americans at this level. Secondly, he was taking care
of his family," Richardson said. "Even though his son was totally
opposite of him, he knew his responsibility was to make sure his
son's family was taken care of. He owned a McDonald's franchise,
which showed he had a head for business and wasn't just living off of
the fact that he served in World War II. His character showed that we
as African- Americans are here and are about something."
Richardson's acting credits include film roles in "Dead Man Walking,"
"Repo," "Colors," "The Grifters" and more, while his TV credits
include "Cold Case," "Monk," "ER" and more.
He's also a writer, acting teacher and director and has served on the
Screen Actors Guild board of directors, among other organizations. He
was last seen in Shreveport when he performed as Maxson in Shreveport
Little Theatre's "Fences" a decade ago. However, he said the city has
always held a special place in his heart.
"I had such a great time the last time I was here and it was my first
time in Louisiana. During that time, I called my mom and told her how
it felt like home, how I loved the people and the food and that's
when she said my grandfather was raised there," he said. "I didn't
know that before. So I have this connection here."
Despite the many hats he wears, Richardson said he gladly came back
to help his friend. "In our business, we have to help each other, so
that's why I'm here."
He's also working with the cast. "They're a very good cast. They're
listeners and take directions well, no one grumbles and everyone is
there because they want to be there. I'm enjoying them," Richardson
said. "They're fun and like a family. It's going to be a good production."
The feeling is mutual for cast members, including Will Bailey, who
plays R.J.'s 26-year-old son, Raymond Jackson Jr. "He has a lot of
knowledge about theater acting as well as film and he really gives a
couple of pointers. He's more like a leader "» I can feed off of him
a little bit," Bailey said.
Bailey said he easily connected to his character. "I really just
based it on the actual story itself and some of the African-American
heroes that I've looked up to, like Bobby Seale and Huey Newton, some
of the Black Panther movies I've watched and books I've read," Bailey
said. "That just put me more into this character and made me really
want to become this character."
Alford said he didn't want to give away the message. "I want people
to discover it on their own," he said. However, he did share the
play's theme. "It's about loyalty, family and redemption. It's also
how different things have changed because the main character has been
imprisoned for 23 years and the world has changed."
Richardson said it's a story that is still relevant to today's society.
"I asked myself the same question 'Is it still relevant?' and I
realize it is. Barack Obama running for president is a good example
of that. We're getting close to electing the first African-American
president, but we still have a lot of the same racial problems that
we had back in this day that the play was written in," he said. "I
think people will watch this play and see things in life today that
will inspire them to do more than they have been doing."