‘Color Purple’ star on Broadway, business and brainpower

By Logan A. White
Times-News correspondent

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Gavin Gregory (Mister), left, and J. Daughtry (Harpo) are shown in the North American tour of "The Color Purple." [Matthew Murphy

   “Decide what it is that you want to do, and then do it.”
That’s the motto J. Daughtry has lived by since adolescence, and it’s brought him a long way from his native Florida. He’s currently playing Harpo in the national tour of “The Color Purple,” the hit Broadway musical based on the classic Alice Walker novel.
Daughtry is no newbie to theater and touring — he’s visited North Carolina before in the ensemble of “Motown: The Musical” and performed as a swing in the New York cast of Color Purple. This, however, is the first time he’s performed in the principal cast of a lead role.
“You give your own identity to the character,” he said. “There’s a deeper discovery that you have to go through with the character that you’re playing.”
For Daughtry, this meant returning to his roots.
“’The Color Purple’ is a show that is very near and dear to my heart and my community,” he said. He’s known both the novel and film from a young age. “I’m from a very rural part of Florida — think the swamp. A lot of what I saw in the movie was reality. So when you see Harpo on the stage, you’re actually seeing the men from my church, or my uncle. As actors, we emulate reality, and I reimagine my reality and perform it on the stage.”
Daughtry, although a lifelong performer, wasn’t always a storyteller of the stage. He began as a vocal performance major in high school, and was encouraged by his parents to continue that path through college.
“I got to college and did it my freshman year and then decided that I wanted to do something else.”
He changed his major to business administration with a concentration in marketing, graduated and moved to Washington, D.C., as a small business banker. That’s when opportunity struck.
“The banks crashed and I moved to New York,” Daughtry said. When the 2008 recession hit, he was out of a job and struggling for options. “Acting was something I naturally could do, and when the banks crashed I had no other choice but to do what I could naturally do.”
Miraculously, he landed a job within two months, and that move led him to a blossoming career. From banking and business to Broadway, Daughtry has lived an eclectic, unique experience and hopes to share his drive with others.
“I want to inspire people to do exactly what it is that they will to do,” he said. “It’s not going to be easy, but it is simple. I’m not saying take leaps and bounds, take steps toward what it is you want to do and eventually, you’ll get to your desired result.”
You can see Daughtry in “The Color Purple” beginning Tuesday at the Durham Performing Arts Center, 123 Vivian Street, Durham. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, April 5; 8 p.m. April 6–7; 2 p.m. April 7; and 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. April 8. Tickets start at $67 and can be purchased at all Ticketmaster outlets or in person or by phone at 919-680–2787.
You can also find Daughtry on Twitter @Jamarice and on Instagram @j.daughtry.

Logan A. White is a home-schooled senior and a Teens & 20s writer.

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