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Rapper Common builds on his work with formerly incarcerated people with ‘Between Riverside and Crazy’

For Oscar, Emmy and Grammy Award winner Common, the impact of his Broadway debut in "Between Riverside and Crazy" extends beyond his work onstage.

Common (Photo credit: Brian Bowen Smith)

For Oscar, Emmy and Grammy Award winner Common, the impact of his Broadway debut in “Between Riverside and Crazy” extends beyond his work onstage.

In a recent episode of “The Broadway Show with Tamsen Fadal,” the rapper shares how Stephen Adly Guirgis’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play affects and inspires him, and how it connects to his work outside of the theater.

Common plays the role of Junior, the son of Walter “Pops” Washington, played by Stephen McKinley Henderson. The story follows the newly-widowed Pops and recently paroled Junior, who fight to keep the last rent-stabilized apartment on Riverside Drive as old wounds and new characters emerge along the way.

Junior’s character isn’t entirely unfamiliar to Common. “I’ve been fortunate enough to meet people who are incarcerated because I’ve done work in prisons,” he said. “And one of the most important things that they always said to me [if] I said, ‘What can I do for you?’ They said, ‘Man, just let people know we’re human beings.’ And that always resonated with me.”

Common has worked to do just that by speaking out about the criminal justice system and by advocating to pass bills that help incarcerated people heal.

For him, the play and its characters have emphasized “the complexity of people.” In playing Junior, Common was set on depicting him as more than just a formerly incarcerated person. “I always want to create a human being when I take on a character,” he said.

Thanks to an early acting teacher, Common has always believed in the power of theater and its ability to inspire, heal and “change people through the work.”

“That’s my goal. That’s my vision,” he said. “The seed in the beginning and the true purpose is the work in what you can do to change and inspire people, and bring just joy to people.”

“Between Riverside and Crazy” opened on Dec. 19 at the Hayes Theatre.

This same episode of “The Broadway Show” also features an interview with “Some Like It Hot” co-writers Matthew López and Amber Ruffin who discuss what makes musical comedy today with Paul Wontorek. “Matilda” director Matthew Warchus and title star Alisha Weir also have a featured interview and chat about their upcoming film adaptation of the 2013 musical. Viewers can also catch moments from the opening nights of “A Beautiful Noise, The Neil Diamond Musical” and “Ain’t No Mo’.”

“The Broadway Show with Tamsen Fadal” airs on weekends. Check your local listings for air time and channel.