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Broadway Q&A: Derrick Baskin of ‘Ain’t Too Proud’

Category Broadway

|by Jeryl Brunner |

Tony nominee Derrick Baskin shares the joy of playing The Temptations founding member Otis Williams

Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations follows the extraordinary journey of The Temptations. The hit musical unfolds their story from early hardship to being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with 42 Top Ten Hits. The Temptations founder Otis Williams is the glue who held the band together. With great heart and humanity, Ephraim Sykes tells Williams’ and the Temptations story along with James Harkness, Jawan M. Jackson, Jelani Remy and Ephraim Sykes. Ain’t Too Proud was nominated for 12 Tony Awards, including a nomination for Baskin. He is best known for his roles in Difficult People on Hulu and Law & Order: SVU. He has originated roles in the Broadway musicals MemphisSpelling Bee and Disney’s The Little Mermaid

Tony nominee Derrick Baskin as Otis Williams in ‘Ain’t Too Proud’ (Photo: Matthew Murphy)

Tony nominee Derrick Baskin as Otis Williams in ‘Ain’t Too Proud’ (Photo: Matthew Murphy)

Did you always want to perform?
Derrick Baskin:
I grew up in church. My mom was a singer. Since I was two or three years old, she would take me to her choir rehearsals. Since then, I always knew that I would be singing. And she knew. She would say, “You’re going to be a singer.” The music just did something to my soul. If I hear music, I feel it in a different way, and it turns my brain on, if you will. It just really gets me going. I have always been that way.

When did you first learn about Ain’t Too Proud?
DB: When I heard about this show, I was in a workshop for another show on Broadway. I was happy in the show I was in. But my agent said, “This show is special. This role is special for you. And I really want you to consider it.” And thank God I listened to him. I read the script. I read the nine pages of monologues that I would be doing. And I fell in love with the character. I fell in love with his heart. It made me really want to do it.

Can you talk about playing Otis Williams?
DB: It takes a really strong person to hold a group together. And that is what he did. Otis Williams is a really good leader. I have so much respect for him. There is no ego with him. For him, the music is his calling. He wanted to make sure that The Temptations’ calling was intact.

Did you grow up listening to the Temptations?
DB: My parents are Motown people. I grew up listening to that music. Every year I listened to the Temptations Christmas album. It’s just in my blood.

How this role has changed you?
DB: It has made me a better man. It has made me a better artist. Telling this story, you have to look back at your own story and look at the decisions that you've made. It made me look back at my decisions and also be very careful about the decisions that I am making. It has made me more empathetic, too.  

What surprised you about Otis Williams? 
DB: He is a really big hat guy, and gave me a hat. I keep it in my bedroom right on my mantle. He is such a humble person. That actually surprised me because he is such an icon. The amount of humbleness that he has is so heart-warming. It makes me want to do him justice even more. 

For more of the best of Broadway this season, check out our list of the Top Shows in New York in September 2019.

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