“Harlem to Hollywood” tells Malik Yoba’s life from the crime-ridden streets of New York City in the 1960s to the colorful lights of Hollywood. The one-man show will reveal the many characters, adventures and tales that have shaped his life. Through words and music, he creates a performance full of color, sound, spirit and passion. The Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper recently spoke with the charismatic, funny gentleman and this is what he shared:
It’s an honor to the city and your fans here for your show to debut in Indianapolis. How was it decided the show would premiere in the Circle City?
Malik Yoba: I have friends and family in the city. My first cousin and my dad’s twin sister and her family are in Indianapolis. I have a relationship with the Walker Theatre and Bruce Williams from when my cousin did a show there 10 years ago. The timing was perfect.
How did you decide to do a one-man show?
When I was 33 years old, I decided at 40 years old I would do a one-man show to display my talents. Television is so limiting in what you can do. I’d seen one-man shows of performers playing multiple characters. Kevin Ramsey (director and co-writer of the show) and I wrote and shaped the performance.
What should the audience expect from the show?
Everyone who comes to the show should expect the unexpected. People haven’t seen me do what I’m going to do or seen anyone else do what I’m going to do except for maybe Whoppi Goldberg when she performed on Broadway.
What was the inspiration for the show?
I was impressed when I saw Jamie Foxx do Ray and Forrest Whitaker in “Last King of Scotland.” It was exciting to see another actor completely embody a character and be totally transformed. That keeps me hungry. For me it’s about honoring the people who live inside me. Growing up in New York I was curious about them, Asians, Italians, Mexicans. When I went to the Asian market I wanted to be able to understand them and their language.
You seem like a private person, why have you decided to share your story?
I wanted to have a place to showcase this and in order to do that I created a one-man show. It’s not that deep to me. I’ve shared my story before. I’m transparent about who I am and where I am from. I want to show the world what I can do because the world thinks they know and they don’t really know.
You could have written an autobiography, why did you decide to perform it on stage instead?
I started on stage. The story isn’t linear. We will chronicle people, events, situations and places. People don’t know I was born in the Bronx, speak Spanish, play guitar. They don’t know how I got the role in “Cool Runnings” and “New York Undercover.” The way the performance is done is for the stage or sketch comedy. People don’t know I’ve done stand-up comedy. There is a lot about me people don’t know.
What did you learn and experience from creating the show?
To be an artist is a great gift and responsibility. I want to honor the gift and inspire others. Actors get nervous and question whether a role is the right role for them. I auditioned for “Devil in a Blue Dress.” But Don Cheadle was perfect for that role. He was a better Mouse than me. I would’ve done a good job. It’s an honor to be an artist and have the opportunity to share your gift. I stay on the path to stretch, grow and share in a way I’ve never done before. This piece helps me do that. Ten years ago I did a one-man show about the Black experience in America and this show is about my experience.
You could have included other actors in the show, why did you decide to perform solo?
I’m selfish…just kidding! I want to show the world what I can do. It’s not a selfish endeavor. These people live inside me and I don’t want to do 20 different shows to express each one of them. Besides, I work with other actors all the time. It’s a challenge when I morph into these characters almost like working with other actors.
How is your love life?
I am recently divorced so I am single and dating. I have three beautiful children. But my main focus right now is work.
What other projects are you working on?
I am working on a film “What’s on the Hearts of Men” which I wrote and directed. I do want to do a “New York Undercover” movie.
Was it difficult to play a love interest such as the character you played on “Girlfriends” or your role in “Why Did I Get Married?”
Yes. (Jokingly) I hate both of those women. Their butts are too big. I can’t take it. Actually, Tracey (Ross) and I went on one date back in 1995 or 1996. So it was interesting to work with her. Janet (Jackson) sat on my lap during breaks. She’s a private but open person. I think it helped her feel comfortable before we shot our scenes to break the ice a little bit.
Do you keep in touch with past co-workers?
I have kept in touch with people from most projects. I tend to stay friends with a lot of folks I work with.
Is it hard for Black actors to find work?
Luckily through this show I get to employ myself. It’s challenging to work in this business. I don’t deal with the challenge but create my own work and focus on working hard. If it was so hard I wouldn’t work.
What advice do you have for other young actors?
While you’re waiting, keep creating. Like my father said, “Create your own generator so when they turn off the power you still have light. “