Stormy – Guardian Interview
Clarke Peters, 65, is best known for playing detective Lester Freamon in HBO drama The Wire and Albert “Big Chief” Lambreaux in Treme. He grew up in New Jersey, then moved to London in the 1970s, where he formed soul band the Majestics and worked as a backing singer on Joan Armatrading’s Love and Affection and Heatwave’s Boogie Nights. His West End credits include Porgy and Bess and Chicago. In 1990, Peters wrote the Tony-nominated revue Five Guys Named Moe. He is currently creative director of new musical Stormy, about the American singer, actor and civil rights activist Lena Horne, who was known as Hollywood’s first black sex symbol and whose 70-year career also spanned Broadway musicals, Grammy-winning jazz albums and appearances alongside Martin Luther King at political rallies.
2017 is the centenary year of Lena Horne’s birth. Is she a heroine of yours?
In one aspect I feel she is America, with all that she had to battle with inside of herself. She was trying to find her identity, just as America was trying to find its identity. I grew up watching her, and I saw this very sophisticated lady who was very attractive, but it wasn’t until you look at some of her interviews that you catch the mischievousness in her. She’s not this sweet, demure woman. She’s got a sassiness. It’s her defiance, her coping mechanism in the world. Her way of saying: “Up yours, I’m not who you think I am. I carry more inside of me than you could ever imagine.” Many people are not really aware of her struggle and what she did in America to break down certain barriers. And then she had to deal with her own identity – she carried African American and Native American descent in her genes; that’s what blew my mind.
Horne found it painful that she was given roles by Hollywood because they considered her lighter-skinned?
Yes, and also within the African American community there were divisions that she didn’t want to have foisted upon her. Then you have her Native American side. Who are you? Where are you in this whole picture? At the end of the day she is America. She is all of those things.