Ruben Santiago-Hudson: Director of a Band and Play

Born and raised in Lackawanna, New York, Ruben Santiago-Hudson has been acting since grade school. He stated that his second grade teacher asked him to be in a school play and he accepted. The task came fairly easy because he was an avid reader that was into characters. As time went on, he continued his education earning a M.F.A from Wayne State University and making his first noted appearance in the film Coming to America. Since then, he has continued to blaze a trail in Hollywood and on the stage. The critically acclaimed actor, director and playwright took time to sit and talk about the latest play he is directing and the upcoming series on BET.

Ruben Santiago-Hudson will be directing the Broadway debut of legendary playwright August Wilson. The play is part of a series known as “The Pittsburgh Cycle” or “The American Century Cycle”. Each play takes place in the sequence of a decade. Although the play has been seen by many theatre goers over the world, this rendition has a new cast that is able to bring the words to life. A jitney is an unlicensed taxi cab and in the story of “Jitney” a group of men located in Pittsburgh are trying to maintain a living by operating the unlicensed cabs in the late 1970s.  The Manhattan Theatre Club and the estate (of August Wilson) have supported the production, which took over ten years to help get the current production on the Broadway stage. While the show is still in previews, the show is selling extremely well. When the Tony Award winning director was asked if he had any reservations about directing the play for the Broadway stage, he replied “No, my intentions were pure.” Prior to his passing, Wilson spoke with Santiago-Hudson and wanted him to continue using his talents to help bring his works to life.

The Quad promo shot of Santiago-Hudson
“The Quad” pilot. Ruben Santiago-Hudson as Cecil Diamond. (Photo: Annette Brown/BET)

Debuting later in January, Santiago-Hudson (Cecil Diamond) will star in the new scripted series on BET titled “The Quad.” The series also stars Anika Noni Rose (Dr. Eva Fletcher), Peyton Alex Smith (Cedric Smith), Jazz Raycole (Sydney Fletcher), Sean Blakemore (Eugene Hardwick). The show will also star seasoned actors E. Roger Mitchell and Jasmine Guy. The 10 episode first season will make its premiere on Jan. 31.  Santiago-Hudson will play the music director of the HBCU’s marching band in Georgia. The Quad will follow the daily lives of the students and the issues that trouble them as well as the administrative staff. He sung the praises of the talented cast and stated “The show is not like Drumline or anything that has been seen before.” The new series has even won the praises of The New York Times as one of fifteen shows to watch this season.

The Quad promo shot
“The Quad” pilot. Ruben Santiago-Hudson as Cecil Diamond. (Photo: Eli Ade/BET)

The center is currently in its third year of operation and things are looking pretty good. The Ruben Santiago-Hudson Fine Arts Learning Center is located in his hometown of Lackawanna, NY. “It’s called the learning center because I wanted the students to learn. Too often they just want to jump into performing.” The center is running in conjunction with the Global Concepts Charter School, also located in Lackawanna. The learning center is equipped with the tools needed for the students to be successful in their performing arts career.

Clearly the actor, writer and director wears many hats. The formula for his idea of balance is simple…”Family comes first and then everything else.” When he is not with his family, he is working on many projects that help tell the stories of people of color in an honest and dignified manner. Through his career, he has encountered many people that have helped him develop in a personal and professional sense and those people were also legends in their own right. The late Adolf Caesar told him “Never be afraid to be who you are.” Santiago-Hudson is very clear on his mission, which is to tell the most authentic stories of African Americans in this country to pay homage to those that came before us in an effort to dispel stereotypes and remove ignorance.

Ruben Santiago-Hudson
Cecil Diamond (Ruben Santiago-Hudson)

J Holloway

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