From Football to Theater, Eddie George Comes to Cleveland in ‘Chicago’
After he retired from a successful career in the NFL, Eddie George faced the question so many professional athletes the face: What do you do when your playing days are over?
George, who won the 1995 Heisman Trophy at Ohio State, left football in 2006. He then started a wealth management firm, opened a restaurant, taught the business of sports at his alma mater and served as a network football commentator. But he still felt his life lacked purpose.
George then turned to something he had never done before- acting. Playhouse Square audiences have the opportunity to see George in action starting tonight, as he reprises the role of Billy Flynn in the national tour of Bob Fosse’s 1975 musical “Chicago.” George first played the slick-talking lawyer in a 2016 production that took him to Broadway.
So what drew him to the stage?
“I fell in love with the art of storytelling, George said.
[photo credit/Jeremy Daniel]
By his own account, George’s first forays into acting, which included appearing as a guest on several television shows, didn’t go well, so he began private lessons. George’s instructor not only taught him the craft of performing but also to embrace that things weren’t always going to go perfectly.
“(I wasn’t comfortable) until I got on stage and failed and felt uncomfortable and vulnerable. It was like a fish out of water for me because I was used to being in control of my environment. I could impose my will on someone if things go wrong, but on stage it is completely different. It wasn’t until I stopped caring about what people thought and more or less started caring about what the character wanted on stage and giving an honest performance, I was able to get to a level of vulnerability that allows me to tell the truth and getting out of my own way, and that’s when I started to really feel comfortable,” George said.
George began acting in plays both in Columbus and his home of Tennessee, which included playing the title role in “Julius Caesar” as well as “Othello.” After seeing a 2014 production of “Chicago” at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville, George told its chief executive, Kathleen O’Brien, he thought he could play the part of Flynn. With her help he landed an audition and won the role, which eventually took him Broadway.
[photo credit / Jeremy Daniel]
George loves the character of Flynn, whom he describes as “very much the showman.”
Like many actors, George has created his own backstory for his character, a self-assured attorney whose job it is to defend two showgirls accused of murder.
“It’s 1920s Chicago, so there is racial barriers he has to go through from my perspective. What did he have to do to get there? It’s never easy to attain success, so what are some of the challenges he had to go through?” George said.
George says that the butterflies he feels before a performance are no different than the ones he had before he took the playing field.
“The nerves are always the same. The nervous energy lets me know it matters. I take that energy and channel into what is needed for my character’s perspective. I lose my sense of who I am. Once the lights go dim and I step out on the stage, it is a different world for me. I don’t see anyone in the audience. I am focusing on my character and what it takes to get his motives across."