Broadway Spotlight: Interview With Apollo Levine, Actor (Quincy Jones) in Tony Award-Winning “MJ The Musical”

International actor, singer, and choreographer, Apollo Levine, is currently making his Broadway debut in the 10-time nominated Tony Award-winning stage play, MJ the Musical playing the iconic Quincy Jones.

No stranger to theater Apollo has graced the stages of Sister Act, Dreamgirls, Ragtime, and originated the role of Chinese Superhero, The Monkey King in Beijing China.

He’s also had roles on the small screen, “Let’s Stay Together,” and “Criminal Minds.”

As a former NBA cheerleader, Apollo had the opportunity to choreograph for the Charlotte Hornets, and serve as a guest choreographer for the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream Shooting Stars. 

With music being Apollo’s first love, he is currently in the studio preparing to release his first solo EP as a music artist later this year with the independent music label Freedom House.

The entertainment industry has afforded Apollo the opportunity to travel the world performing, choreographing, and teaching in Europe, Asia, Australia, and North America.

Hustle and Soul Magazine obtained an exclusive interview with Apollo Levine.

What inspired you to become a performer and what keeps you motivated to stick with it? 

Apollo: I can’t remember what show I watched on Disney when I was a kid, but all I could remember is telling my parents that I knew I could do what the kids were doing on tv. I wanted to sing and dance and be on tv. I was a big movie and tv kid and was fascinated about how people, in my head, got to pretend or make believe for a living. 

The other thing was seeing my older cousin on stage when I was younger in her high school musicals and my sister rapping in all the local talent shows. I just knew I wanted to be on stage, in front of the camera, or behind a microphone. The biggest thing that has kept me going is my daughter. I’ve sacrificed so much time away from her, I want her to know that when it all comes down to it, I’m doing this for her.

Epic congratulations on the success of Broadway’s MJ the Musical. How does it feel to have the iconic role of Quincy Jones and how did you prepare for this journey? 

Apollo: It honestly feels like a dream that a lot of times I still have not woken up from. You are talking about a true living legend and icon that I get to portray eight shows a week. It still blows my mind and the feeling is wild. I think I have gone down a rabbit hole of documentaries, YouTube, records, articles, and following this man on Instagram. Anything and everything I could get my hands on to make sure I was doing this man justice. I will never be him so it’s about bringing his essence to life every time I step on the stage, especially at this specific time in our story when he was working with Michael Jackson to create these iconic songs and records that will forever be a part of our lives.

Tell us about your experience at the Tony Awards this year? 

Apollo: I can’t even remember what year I started watching the Tony’s, but I knew from the moment I got introduced to them I wanted to be there someday. Being at the Tonys this year, making my Broadway debut, and being in the hit musical of the season was and is crazy. One, to be on the red carpet with people that I have looked up to for years and also other actors who I’ve gotten to know was insane. 

Two, sitting in Radio City Music Hall and screaming every time they called our name for something was a rush. There was also a moment as I was sitting there that I was reminded to never stop dreaming and never feel like I am dreaming too big. The eight year old boy in me came out that night and I had all of the fun.

How did it feel to open up for the NY Yankees? 

Apollo: People keep telling me it’s something I can cross off my bucket list. The funny thing is, it was never on my bucket list because I couldn’t fathom that being a part of my journey. When I got the call I immediately said yes. I believe it was a huge moment for me not just because of the performance aspect and that it could help in being a game changer for my career, but it was something that I will hold so near and dear to me. 

At the beginning of the MJ rehearsal process when we finally announced after two years of a pandemic, we were finally coming to Broadway, my mom passed away. I just remember the first two weeks of rehearsal. I was planning a funeral with my siblings at the same time learning this massive show, then I jumped on a plane, buried my mom, and then two days later I was back in rehearsal. Everything was a blur. 

The Yankees game was amazing because my mom was the biggest sports fan in our house growing up. You did not come between her and sports. She was also a native New Yorker and was my biggest fan. So standing behind that mic, singing at the stadium of the most recognizable baseball team ever, in front of thousands of fans somehow felt very spiritual and that I was connected to my mom, and she was there watching and cheering me on.

Is there a role you haven’t played yet that you aspire to obtain one day? If so, what character? 

Apollo: So here’s the deal. I’ve always wanted to play Colehouse in Ragtime when it comes to theater. But honestly, I just want to create new works. I eventually want to write and produce, which is why I started my company Freedom House Ink last year. I was always that creative kid that could entertain myself for hours by making up stuff and that’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. Simply create, inspire, and keep making stuff up.

What would you like to see more of for people of color in entertainment? 

Apollo: I want to see us have ownership. We, as a people have always had to be resilient and creative to get us through tough times. Now it’s time to tell our stories without permission from folks that will never have a clue of what our culture is. I don’t mind working with others, but for you to have the final say on my black experience must be done away with. I want us to own our narrative and stories, studios, networks, and platforms.

What’s next for you? 

Apollo: The plan is to really dive back into tv and film after MJ is over for me. I think the most exciting thing for me though, that I can control is putting out music, which I’m truly stoked about doing. Music has always been my first love and it’s just time to move in that direction.

What advice would you have for anyone who aspires to enter the entertainment industry? 

Apollo: If you want this, be prepared to sacrifice. This is not an easy industry to be a part of. It takes so much of your life. Surround yourself with a great support system. Take everything as a teachable moment. Lastly, always find time to center yourself and create space for what you need so you will never forget who you are. The industry is going to be the industry, but how you show up for yourself and how you handle yourself is always on you.

Connect on social media @onlyapollolevine

Tammy Reese

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