Yes, ex-NFL star Eddie George is coming to Iowa to do Broadway. No, it's not a gimmick.
After years as an NFL running back and analyst, Eddie George is adding to his resume, starring in the renowned Broadway musical "Chicago." USA TODAY Sports
Whether he was playing against the Iowa Hawkeyes during his Heisman Trophy campaign at Ohio State or succeeding during any of his nine NFL seasons, Eddie George was a winner. And he was probably nervous.
But when he comes to Ames next week for the musical "Chicago," it's possible he'll be just as nervous, if not more.
"Oh definitely. There's nothing like stage nerves because people can pick up on fear, when you're nervous," George told the Register over the phone. "It truly is an environment to tell the truth for sure."
It's a new chapter of George's life, and he's quick to let everyone know that his acting career is not a gimmick.
"This is not something that is to check off the list," he said. "I definitely want to keep getting consistent work, the right projects and the right people."
George is one of the leading stars of "Chicago," which is set to play Feb. 24-26 at Iowa State University's Stephens Auditorium. The 43-year-old, at 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds, plays Billy Flynn in the 2 1/2-hour musical. He's held this role for about a year on tour, proving one of the show's longtime producer's doubts wrong when he first auditioned.
George played nine NFL seasons with the Houston Oilers, Tennessee Titans and Dallas Cowboys. He won the league's offensive rookie of the year award in 1996, was named to the Pro Bowl four times and tallied 10,441 career yards.
Following his retirement from the game in 2004, George went back to school and earned his MBA at Northwestern University and spent some time as a sports broadcaster. He also owns landscape architecture and financial service businesses.
But George began taking acting classes back then "for a million of reasons," mainly because of newfound passion he thought he never had: "To tell stories." He worked with an acting coach for as many as four days a week and teamed up with dance and voice coaches, including his wife Taj, a singer with the R&B group SWV.
George learned more and more about the nuances of telling the truth, storytelling and did whatever he could to jump-start his new profession on stage and on camera.
It took almost three years of preparation until he began appearing in several community theater plays in Nashville, Tenn., where he and his wife still live. And It's been a "life-changing" process for George as he continues to refine himself both professionally and personally.
"I'm always looking for deeper meaning, whether it's a word or a certain scene," he said. "You have a tendency to do a play and you can do it so many times that it becomes repetition and it becomes a part of you and you take it for granted. The challenge is not taking it for granted — just always pushing for more."
George said he looks up to actress Meryl Streep because "she's fantastic for what she does in terms of her craft," Don Cheadle because "he's a chameleon in so many ways in terms of his character development" and thinks Bryan Cranston is "phenomenal." He tries to replicate their styles within his own craft.
"I look across the board at different actors and actresses — old and young — and pick up something from them or how they deliver a certain line or where they came from," George said.
One example is from another actor George idolizes: Denzel Washington. He once saw Washington perform in "Fences" on Broadway in New York City, and the way Washington responded in one of the more gripping scenes of the play stuck in his mind. George was able to talk with Washington about that scene after the show.
"I saw my father do that," Washington told him.
"I'm always looking for what made an actor do what and how they do it. You can use your own personal life experiences," George said. "I'm always using stuff from my childhood or as a father or husband, bad experiences I've had. If I can't connect with that to the material, I try to use all my experiences in some part of fashion.
"I have an opportunity to get that in a moment."
How is George able to resonate with his "Chicago" character?
"Billy is a salesman. He's a prince of the courtroom," he said. "He is very flamboyant, suave ... I guess I've resonated that with so many ways in my life. I try to bring that forward."
Even after amassing 10,441 career yards in the NFL, in front of thousands of fans in stadiums and millions watching on television, George said he still feels the nerves when he's up on stage.
"Oh definitely. There's nothing like stage nerves because people can pick up on fear, when you're nervous," he said. "It truly is an environment to tell the truth for sure."
This new environment, though — it's anything but a back-up plan for the ex-football star.
"You move forward," George said, "You move forward into something else rather than falling back. ... I want to continue to do more roles on stage, television or film.
"Everybody has a story — stories that are untold."
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If you go
When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 24-25, 2 p.m. Feb 26
Where: Stephens Auditorium, Iowa State University
Cost: Tickets range from $22 to $75
More information: Click here