Curtiss Cook, who plays Douda in Lena Waithe’s Showtime drama series The Chi, will play the first Black character in the Steven Spielberg-directed remake of the classic musical West Side Story. Cook, a Broadway actor with a credited role in the Broadway adoption of The Lion King, will play Abe in the upcoming remake. Although Curtiss was tight-lipped on giving away any parts of the movie, he did offer this, “What you see Abe do is amazing. He really moves the story along.”
The original musical takes place in New York during the late 1950s and focused on two rival gangs, The Jets, an all-white gang, and The Sharks, a Puerto Rican gang. The original musical excluded African Americans from the cast. Cook said adding a Black main character into the story represents New York in the 1950s. Something the original version did not portray.
“There were a lot of Black people in New York during 1957,” Cook said. “But unfortunately, the original version didn’t reflect that. I think this time, they decided to include the landscape as it was. I’m so fortunate that I am the representation of it.” After production was delayed due to COVID-19, the film is scheduled to release in December 2021. The Spielberg-directed West Side Story will stick to the original story authored by Arthur Laurents with the original music and lyrics of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim but will expand in the form of writing in new characters to the existing story.
Curtiss Cook says being part of the remake is nothing short of amazing. “Spielberg was great. When Steven Spielberg says, ‘Oh my God, I love you on The Chi,’ I have to keep pinching myself.” In The Chi, Cook’s character Otis’ Douda’ Perry is a Southside businessman, the head of a violent street gang, and now the mayor of Chicago, as the series enter season 4.
“Douda is in power to make some changes now,” Cook said. “When you see what he does, you’re not going to believe it.” Curtiss continues, “Douda is like, I’m going to change the city forever, and that he does. One thing about Douda is while everyone else is playing checkers, he’s playing chess.”
New episodes of The Chi air every Sunday at 7 PM CST on Showtime.