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Hampton Fluker makes an auspicious Broadway debut in a starry revival of Arthur Miller's drama
Although Hampton Fluker graduated from Boston University's prestigious School of Theatre six years ago, he feels like he's back in studying mode in Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of Arthur Miller's All My Sons. The 28-year-old actor is making his Broadway debut opposite theatre vets Annette Bening, Tony winner Tracy Letts and American Psycho star Benjamin Walker, and he's taking the opportunity to soak up everything he can.
"This is definitely the toughest thing I've done," he says of playing George Deever, a high-strung young lawyer whose truth telling upends two families in post-World War II small-town America. "Every night I'm learning something new because of what this ensemble is doing on stage. It's a huge gift, especially because I haven't been on a stage like this since college."
Fluker launched his career with a small role in The Blind Side as a teen, then headed off to college, where he became a lauded actor in Boston's theatre scene. But since finishing school, he's mostly performed on TV, notably as a series regular on the Jennifer Lopez police drama Shades of Blue. So he's relishing being back on stage playing a character that has such a catalytic effect on the story.
George enters All My Sons at the top of Act II, after his sister Ann (Francesca Carpanini) becomes engaged to Chris Keller (Walker). He is intent on breaking up their relationship because, during WWII, Chris' father Joe (Letts) made George and Ann's dad take the fall for shipping damaged aircraft parts, which caused the deaths of 21 American pilots. The siblings' unseen father has been in prison ever since, and George is determined to destroy the Deevers' façade of innocence.
In order to get into the head of this complex character who's boiling over with righteous indignation, Fluker spent hours reflecting on George's backstory. "He has been away from home for so long, and he's had a lot of time to think," Fluker says. "We're pretty sure George was in a psychiatric hospital for about five years while studying law, and he has missed his father terribly. It just so happened that when he visited his dad, he opened up, and George is a lawyer now and he's already angry. Without all those things put together, you wouldn't have the bomb that goes off in the play."
Fluker also draws on aspects of his own life to inform the character. As the youngest of five siblings, "I'm a little brother at heart -- I'm kind of a mama's boy as well," he says. "So George's sensitivity is something I really understand." Although Miller doesn't specify their ages, Fluker decided that Ann is older and George is her fragile younger brother. "George was a very serious kid, but so serious that people didn't really take him seriously," he says. "Speaking from a younger brother experience, when no one takes you seriously, you're always in a place of having to prove yourself."
In order to keep himself sane tackling such emotionally intense material, Fluker thinks of his job as a sport. "When Ben Walker goes out for the first act, I actually tell him, 'I'll see you at halftime,'" says Fluker. "You have to make things like this fun, so we make it a game." That mentality is a remnant of Fluker's high school days in Atlanta, when he planned to play college football while studying medicine. "Then I went to drama camp and it was way more fun than sports," he says
Although All My Sons originally premiered in 1947, Fluker notes how relevant its themes are today: "money and power and how that spins the truth; how people can really be dragged through the mud without deserving it because they're not in a place of power; how people can believe their own lies to a point where they don't even know they're lying -- I could go down the list," he says. However, he doesn't concern himself with all that when he's on stage.
"I've got to keep it simple or else what I'm doing won't even be clear to myself," Fluker says. "I wanted to do this as a student of theatre. I wanted give myself that gift of doing the character work and focusing on nothing but being as honest as I possibly can."
Jen Gushue is a freelance theatre writer with bylines in American Theatre, HowlRound and Business Insider. Follow her on Twitter at @jengushue. Follow TDF at @TDFNYC.
Top image: Hampton Fluker, Benjamin Walker and Francesca Carpanini in All My Sons. Photos by Joan Marcus.
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