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Why Tory Kittles Feels So at 'Home' in His New Role

By: Regina Robbins
Date: Jun 05, 2024

The Equalizer star on bringing a Black classic back to Broadway


On television, Tory Kittles is known for playing gritty roles, including a gang leader on Sons of Anarchy, an anti-alien resistance fighter on Colony and a butt-kicking detective on The Equalizer. But in Roundabout Theatre Company's Home, currently running at Broadway's Todd Haimes Theatre, he's taking on a character closer to his own experience: Cephus Miles, a good-natured North Carolina farmer who goes on an odyssey to figure out where he belongs.

"I grew up on a dirt road in Lawtey, Florida, population 700, one stoplight," Kittles says. "My grandmother would make us go out in the fields and pick okra and snap peas—the grocery store was ten miles away!" Like Cephus, Kittles is proud of his rural roots, but not all his memories are pleasant. "My junior year in high school, there were KKK rallies that we would protest," he recalls. "But there was still a sense of community; there were good people there."

Home feels achingly authentic because the playwright, Samm-Art Williams, based the script on his own small-town upbringing. Originally mounted by the influential Negro Ensemble Company in 1979, the show transferred to Broadway the next year, where it earned a Tony nomination for Best Play. In 2021 during the pandemic shutdown, director Kenny Leon helmed a streaming production of Home as part of the Roundabout Theatre Company's Refocus Project, which aims to expand the American theatre canon by spotlighting underappreciated classics by artists of color. Now the play, which costars Stori Ayers and Brittany Inge as all the people Cephus encounters, is receiving its first Broadway revival after four decades.

Home was Williams' sole Broadway play, but he went on to have great success in TV as a writer and producer for the sitcoms Martin and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. "It's such a distinct name—I'd seen it for years not knowing who the man actually was," says Kittles. Sadly, Williams passed away last month, just a few days before the revival's first preview. While Kittles acknowledges his death means the cast feels "a responsibility to his work and to his legacy," it's not a burden. "There's so much joy involved in this whole process."

Poetic, playful and fable-like, Home takes place over 25 years as Cephas grows up, has his heart broken, is jailed for being a conscientious objector, is forced to leave his hometown, and ends up in a harsh and pitiless city, all the while wondering why God seems to be on vacation in Miami. Thankfully, Kittles left home under more promising circumstances. "I went to play basketball at college down in Orlando," he says, but the sport was not his destiny: "I had to give up my basketball dreams because I didn't get a scholarship and I had to get a job to pay for school." As fate would have it, he found work at a casting agency. "I eventually ended up going on a set as an extra—it was the Kenan & Kel show—and I was instantly bit by the bug. I knew this was what I was going to do."

Kittles began studying acting and soon landed a small role in Tigerland, a 2000 Vietnam War drama directed by Hollywood veteran Joel Schumacher. "We were shooting this movie on a base where my grandfather was stationed during World War II, where my mom and my aunts grew up," he recalls. At Schumacher's urging, Kittles left Orlando for Los Angeles, and like Cephas, he found life in the big city wasn't easy. But eventually he began working regularly on screen and stage.

"My journey has been a really interesting one," he says. "I've been very fortunate to do such a variety of things." Kittles is particularly gratified to have worked with Queen Latifah on multiple projects: the all-Black TV remake of Steel Magnolias (also directed by Leon), the HBO biopic Bessie about blues singer Bessie Smith and now The Equalizer, which just wrapped its fourth season and has been renewed for a fifth.

"She's amazing. When Kenny offered me Home, I had to reach out to the Equalizer fam to ask, 'How do you guys feel about it?'" Kittles says, referring to possible schedule conflicts. "Queen Latifah was the first person to say, 'Oh, you're doing this—you have to do this!'"

Even though Cephus is an incredibly demanding role that goes to some dark places, Kittles is glad to be spending his Equalizer hiatus on stage in such an emotional and entertaining show. "There's something that's resonating and touching people," Kittles says, noting he often hears audiences crying, gasping and laughing. "It's just a beautiful work."


TDF MEMBERS: At press time, discount tickets were available for Home. Go here to browse our latest discounts for dance, theatre and concerts.

Home is also frequently available at our TKTS Discount Booths.

Regina Robbins is a writer, director, native New Yorker and Jeopardy! champion. She has worked with several NYC-based theatre companies and is currently a Core Company Member with Everyday Inferno Theatre.