OSU Legend Eddie George brings Chicago to Columbus
When you think of Eddie George, you probably envision all the highlight tapes your dad made you watch before the Buckeye games on Saturday.
He’s lowering his shoulder and trucking through middle linebackers with no regard; it’s 3-yards and a cloud of dust like the days past; it’s him hoisting that highly coveted Heisman trophy high in the air with all of Buckeye nation rocking a number 27 jersey. Crowd chanting, EDDIE! EDDIE! EDDIE!
But the next time you see Eddie George, he’ll ditch the shoulder pads and helmet for a suit and tie and your chants will transform from “Eddie!” to “Billy!”
After that cloud of dust settled and the football career came to an end, Eddie George found his ways to stay in the spotlight. George has found some TV spots with Guy Fieri and The Rock, and even secured a few roles in feature films such as The Game Plan and Into The Sun, but it’s the live stage where he’s truly been training this last decade, playing the lead in Othello and Julius Caesar at the Nashville Shakespeare Festival.
Oh, and when he isn’t soaking up the camera lights in Hollywood or wherever else, you can find him working as a college professor, or as a financial advisor, or helping operate and run the small-business he owns. Yup, just like in football, it takes an army and a half to halt the versatile George.
Now with some experience under his belt, a few acting roles out his his way, and confidence building after a few years of theater roles in his adopted hometown of Nashville, George is ready to showcase his wide variety of talents in his newest role of Billy Flynn in the Broadway production of Chicago.
But before he and the cast take over the Palace Theater February 6-11, we picked his brain about past roles, his current role, and how he can’t get the theater out of his head.
What has been your favorite show to be a part of? Working with every show I’ve been on is great. Working with Shooter or The Rock with Ballers, so far they all have been pretty interesting. I think each one was a different type of experience than the other. Not good or bad either, it just was what it was at the time.
If you had to choose between starting a reality TV show with either Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson or Guy Fieri, who would you choose and why? That’s tough because I don’t like reality television, so I’d probably lean more towards serious TV and working with The Rock. You know, he’s the People’s Magazine Sexiest Man, he’s garnered a lot of attention, he’s the No. 1 actor of our time right now, box office-wise, and so yeah, I would definitely pick The Rock because there would be a probably a lot of areas where you would see me on different platforms. So selfishly, I pick The Rock.
In Chicago, you play Billy Flynn, who is very much considered a villian in the play. How has it been switching personas from the beloved athlete to playing a smooth-talking con man? Someways, Bill does play somewhat of a hero role. His demeanor and takes aren’t necessarily righteous or forthright––he’s sinister, he’s conniving, and he manipulates––but I think it comes from a genius thread. I guess it’s searching for the truth to why he does what he does. I hope it comes off as authentic and that’s what comes forward: the authentic parts of who he is—so when I’m in this world everything I do is justified, all my actions are justified with motive.
What’s been the most difficult thing about playing him? Is it, like you said, just trying to understand his mindset? The songs, for me. [Chuckles]. He’s very slippery, always thinking 5-6-7 steps ahead … you know, he’s a chess player. He knows the system, he’s been down this road, and he’s well-seasoned. So I think the challenging parts are trying to make it fresh. To not rely on the last performance or take it for granted. It’s constantly allowing the story to grow and evolve and be its own show versus other shows I’ve done, there’s always room for fresh moments or a different interpretation or perspective from what you see.
So have you tried to put a personal spin on Billy or have you tried to play it true to the original character? I try to do some personal things. You know, it’s my interpretation of some of the views. I definitely try to find those little nuances to create a totally different character than I ever knew. And that means really allowing that personality to come out times 10.
Have there been any songs that you just can’t get out of your head since the production started? “Oh God, yes. And some of them aren’t my songs! [Chuckles] … I love doing “All I Care About Love.” It’s a grand entrance. It lets you know who I am. But, every song in Chicago is so good and so well-written. They are iconic songs, they have everlasted—they are timeless. Once you’re in musicals, you find things in songs, not even your own songs, that you love and sticks with you.”
Buckeyes on the Big Stage
Eddie George is one of the greatest athletes in Ohio State history—and now he attempts to join a shorter list of accomplished alumni who made a name for themselves in Hollywood:
Actor and comedian who currently plays himself on the HBO hit series Curb Your Enthusiasm. Lewis also starred in Leaving Las Vegas as Peter and Robin Hood: Men In Tights as Prince John.
Writer and actor who is most notably known for his long-time role as head writer for The Oscars—and wearing ironic t-shirts before it was cool.
While in line to become a teacher at OSU, became Miss Ohio and later a Hollywood starlet. Was close friends with Marilyn Monroe and the second wife of Howard Hughes.
Actress and model who played Debra Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond for nine seasons. Heaton also starred in The Middle as Frankie Heck for nine seasons.
Studied theatre at OSU before going on to a long career, which included a starring role as Stella Bonasera on CSI: NY.
Legendary character actress who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 1972’s Butterflies Are Free, a role she also played on Broadway previously.
Photos by Jeremy Daniel