The rest of the country is starting to notice Ro Boddie.
A graduate of the North Carolina School of the Arts, Boddie made an auspicious Washington debut in Forum Theatre’s 2009 production of Angels in America, earning a Helen Hayes Award nomination.
A member of No Rules Theater Company, he appeared in Stop Kiss, directed by Holly Twyford. Boddie’s credits also include performances with Sonnet Repertory Company, and Philadelphia’s CENTERSTAGE.
Boddie has joined Twyford once again, this time as fellow actors in Dirt, running through November 11 at Studio Theatre.
But, to date, his biggest audience by far was on Sunday night, October 21st, when audiences around the country saw his name scroll up in the opening credits of that week’s “The Good Wife.”
In “Don’t Haze Me, Bro,” Boddie was Wayne Crockett, a young man accused of killing a member of his college water polo team during a hazing.
As exciting as that was for his fans, it was all according to plan. The New York-based actor said juggling stage and screen had been part of his plan while he was still earning his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the North Carolina School of the Arts.
“At graduation, I thought about it a lot, to keep theatre as my foundation,” said Boddie.
“But to get my name out there, to network and attract more film and TV work, I knew it is easier to become known when they actually see your work and you are more than just a headshot and a resume.”
As a working actor in New York, Boddie said he is still considered a baby, since he has only been there about three years. And even with fairly steady stage work, the sudden upward turn to the onscreen aspect of his work was unexpected, he said.
“I never thought it would happen this quickly, but I am so blessed and thankful.”
Boddie credits his agent for helping land his TV work for which he has not had to leave his New York base. All the shows on which he has appeared are filmed in NY.
Aside from the support of his own agent, Boddie said that building relationships with the casting directors is also an important part of the process. “You want to get the work, of course, but the goal is really to get callbacks. If the casting director likes you and they call you back for other work that usually means good things.”
Once hired, Boddie said the fast pace of television work was a big adjustment. Whereas in theatre, there might be weeks of rehearsal prior to performance, in TV, you get about ten minutes, they send you to makeup, and then you are on, he said.
“The more work I’ve have done, to get the clearest choices in the shortest amount of time – I feel like I am getting stronger in that.”
“I really wanted to maintain my integrity from my stage work when I work for the screen,” Boddie added. “You have to learn how to tone it down for the camera, without losing clarity or specificity. The main thing I am learning is they want to see the character they want when you go into the room.”
During his time on the set of the “The Good Wife,” Boddie said the cast and crew was extremely supportive. “They take really good care of you and make you feel comfortable.”
“Don’t Haze Me, Bro” was directed by Michael Zinberg. A veteran television director whose work stretches back to the 1970s, Zinberg has credits ranging from “The Bob Newhart Show,” “L.A. Law,” “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “Lost” and “Monk.”
“Michael wanted me to get to the quickest choice right off the bat, but to still be who I am and to make my own choices,” explained Boddie.
“And in this kind of work, it’s about tweaking the performance, not changing it completely. The director would come to me and say something like, ‘Punch this line harder, calm down on this one, and remember you hate their son so that’s why you killed him.’”
Since every single expression on your face is picked up by the camera, Boddie said it really boils down to throwing out self-conscious thoughts.
“You have to think the thoughts of the character; when you do that, you can’t go wrong.”
If Boddie could share his insight with aspiring actors, he cites one source of inspiration as his acting bible: The book “The Actor and the Target” by British director Declan Donnellan.
“That book has been a huge catalyst and anchor for me,” said Boddie. “One of the main ideas is for you, the actor, to focus outside yourself – the person you are speaking to. This idea helps me to bring me out of myself. The other person becomes the captain of my ship.”
The technique from Donnellan’s text allows the actor to think “less about self and more about the other person. When you are getting that energy onstage, it forges a strong relationship.”
The factor of entrepreneurship cannot be overlooked, according to Boddie.
“That’s number one: you are your own business and your own product. You may have an agent who gives 50 percent to your career and you give a percentage to it, but you must invest in selling yourself.”
“The more people see the passion and drive within you the better.”
Maintaining yourself – taking acting classes – is also necessary. “It’s like going to the gym, so you don’t let your muscles go. Even Oscar winners go back and take acting classes once in a while.”
Boddie said it is also important to make sure you are in the business for the right reason.
“I have no Plan B. I’m still fairly fresh out of college, I have one chance and I am giving it 110 percent.”
Right now, Boddie is giving 110 percent to Dirt at Studio Theatre. He said it has been a rewarding experience, performing the role of a former junkie, who, in essence, came from the dirt to become the cleanest character onstage. Guy is a Reiki healer.
“It’s great being in this new play, where people are going home thinking about household chemicals, or even being too clean. I don’t know many plays that are esoteric like this one.”
Closes November 11, 2012
The Studio Theatre, Studio 4
1501 14th St. NW
Washington, DC 20005
2 hours, 15 minutes with 1 intermission
Tuesdays thru Sundays
The simplicity of the piece and the presentation also appeals to Boddie. “Because there was not as much set, we concentrate more on pure and simple storytelling, back to the basics.”
“A chair and a person on stage – that’s all you need.”
Working as an ensemble with director David Muse on the new play also had its advantages. “The playwright Bryony Lavery, (who also wrote Frozen) is not too precious with her work, so we were able to contribute to the development of the characters.”
Boddie was also glad to be working with Holly Twyford again. She plays Harper, the leading role in an otherwise ensemble piece.
“To work with Holly again, after she directed me in Stop Kiss is fantastic. She is just as good as an actress as a director. She is so perceptive. She makes very specific choices, but she is not afraid to make a wrong choice either.
As his own path is full of choices, it appears Ro Boddie will continue giving 110 percent to his career and the characters he gets to play on stage and screen.