Performing Arts
12:57 pm
Fri January 13, 2012

Eddie George Trades Touchdowns For Togas

Originally published on Sat January 14, 2012 11:54 am

Jim Brown, Dennis Rodman and O.J. Simpson are all former professional athletes who've tried their hand at acting. Showbiz might seem like a natural path for guys with big egos and million-watt personalities, but Eddie George is a former NFL player who's taken a different path to the limelight.

He's joining a fraternity of actors that includes Charlton Heston in playing William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.

The scene where Marcus Brutus kills Caesar is probably the most famous death scene in all of theater. It's where those famous words, "Et tu, Brute?" are uttered.

Despite his early demise, Caesar is a plum role for the former Tennessee Titans' running back.

"I was not put on this earth strictly to be a football player and then that's it, dwindle away," he says. "I have aspirations of being an artist, entertainer and actor, and I'm working hard toward that."

Rehearsing The Role Of An Actor

George worked hard for eight seasons with the Titans. He never missed a start, and he played in the Super Bowl. But when he left football, George wanted to try acting — so he set out for Hollywood.

George says it was a disaster. He didn't know what he was doing, so he came back to Nashville and sought out an acting coach.

"He took me through a boot camp of improv work, of cold readings, of scene study, of character analysis — of all of that," George says. "So I really have a gist of what I was doing, a landscape of the theater."

Now, equipped with some performing tools, George has landed some bit parts in a few films and acted in some plays. But he's still a hero to Titans fans, tens of thousands of whom watched him play.

Denice Hicks of the Nashville Shakespeare Festival knows some of those fans will come out to see Julius Caesar because of him, but, she says, "he's a really strong actor — really, really strong."

"And," she says, he has "a charismatic stage presence. There is no other actor who could play Caesar the way he could."

From The Field To The Stage

George's Caesar sports a bald head and a toga. He looks confident without being cocky. While he's relaxed and soft-spoken offstage, onstage, his voice booms.

Audience member Sherry Lawler isn't a football fan, but she says George has a stage presence that's reminiscent of a famous actor in an iconic role.

"He reminds me of Yul Brynner in The King and I," she says.

George says acting isn't just a hobby for a retired athlete.

He says he hopes this production of Julius Caesar will lead to more opportunities to hone his acting chops.

"This is not like, 'Hey, this is cool. I'll put this on my bucket list. I did a Shakespearean piece,' " George says. "This is something I've worked hard at, that I'm working hard at, and this is just the next thing that presented itself that I have an opportunity to do."


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Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

These days, if you hear a story about a retired pro football player, it's likely about his struggles with injuries sustained years ago on the field. This is not one of those stories.

This is the story of what a once great running back does with his life after winning a Heisman Trophy and playing nearly a decade of pro football. In the case of Eddie George, he tackles Shakespeare and Julius Caesar.

From member station WPLN in Nashville, Bradley George - no relation to Eddie - has our story.

BRADLEY GEORGE, BYLINE: In Shakespeare's play, Julius Caesar dies a quick and violent death.

(SOUNDBITE OF PLAY, "JULIUS CAESAR")

GEORGE: The scene where Marcus Brutus kills Caesar is probably the most famous death scene in all of theatre. It's where Julius Caesar utters those famous words: Et tu, Brute?

Despite his early demise, Caesar is a plum role for former Tennessee Titans running back Eddie George.

EDDIE GEORGE: I was not put on this earth strictly to be a football player and then that's it, dwindle away. And I have aspirations of being an artist, an entertainer and an actor and I'm working hard toward that.

GEORGE: George worked hard for eight seasons with the Titans. He never missed a start and he played in the Super Bowl. But when he left football, George wanted to try acting, so he set out for Hollywood. George says it was a disaster. He didn't know what he was doing, so he came back to Nashville and sought out an acting coach.

GEORGE: He took me through a boot camp of improv work, of cold readings, of scene study, of character analysis, of all of that. So I really have a gist of what I was doing, a landscape of the theatre.

GEORGE: Now, with some performing tools, George has landed some bit parts in a few films and acted in some plays, but he's still a hero to Titans fans. Tens of thousands would watch him play every Sunday.

Denice Hicks of the Nashville Shakespeare Festival knows some of those fans will come out to see Julius Caesar because of him, but...

DENICE HICKS: He is a really strong actor, really, really strong, and a charismatic stage presence. There is no other actor who could play Caesar the way he could.

GEORGE: George's Caesar sports a bald head and a toga. He looks confident without being cocky. While he's relaxed and soft spoken off stage, on stage, his voice booms.

(SOUNDBITE OF PLAY, "JULIUS CAESAR")

GEORGE: (as Julius Caesar) Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look. He thinks too much. Such men are dangerous.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (as Brutus) Fear him not, Caesar. He's not dangerous.

GEORGE: Audience member, Sherry Lawler, isn't a football fan, but she says George has a stage presence that's reminiscent of a famous actor in an iconic role.

SHERRY LAWLER: He reminds me of Yul Brenner as the king in "The King and I."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GEORGE: Eddie George says acting isn't just a hobby for a retired athlete. He says he hopes this production of Julius Caesar will lead to more opportunities to hone his acting chops.

GEORGE: This is not like - you know what, this is cool. I'll put this on my bucket list. You know, I did a Shakespearian piece. No. This is something that I've worked hard at, that I'm working hard at and this is just the next thing that presented itself that I've had an opportunity to do.

GEORGE: There's plenty more Shakespeare for George to do. There are even plays where the main character doesn't die at all.

For NPR News, I'm Bradley George in Nashville. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.