Elijah Rock as Anatoly in CHESS.

Elijah Rock as Anatoly Sergievsky in CHESS.

Tell us about the character you play, and how can you relate to him/her. Is there any part of Chess that resonates with you as an actor, or personally?

I play “Antatoly Sergievsky, The Russian.” I relate to the complexity of his human conflict. For some reason, I am always drawn to characters that embody a kind of visceral dexterity. I like to be challenged and I almost revel in the exercise of finding new dimensions in the human experience to explore. I think we all can relate in some way to Chess because every choice or move we make in life has an effect; some predictable and some not. 

What challenges, if any, have you faced with playing your character?

To represent the stoicism of Anatoly’s Russian temperament has been the most challenging. He has to show a powerful range of emotion, yet he is very still and rigid in his body language. 

What distinguishes this production or role you have compared to other characters you’ve played in the past?

I’ve never performed with a mixed cast of this nature before, especially with my Asian brothers and sisters, so I jumped at this opportunity to work with Tim Dang and the renown East West Players. I had heard of their amazing reputation but never thought I’d work there until they decided to cast a multi-cultural cast of Chess. I guess we’ve made history and my hat goes off to Tim for stepping outside the box of traditional casting.

Also, this role is very demanding vocally; this is one of the most demanding roles for a baritone in a musical. I don’t think I’ve ever had to be so disciplined in keeping my voice in optimum condition. I am grateful every performance for my classical training. It has prepared me totally for this role of a lifetime. 

What made you want to pursue acting?

For me, it all began with singing in my church at an early age, along with having a strong theater arts department in my school. It was something I excelled at and received the attention and validation that every child craves. Fortunately, I had my mother’s support and encouragement and a community around me to push me further along my path. I’ve always known this is what I wanted to do with my life. 

Have you ever faced adversity in your career, and if so, how?

Of course! What career in show business has not? Adversity is what makes you a stronger person and gives you experiences by which you can draw from as an entertainer. Art reflects life and life reflects art. I did not get jobs I thought I was perfect for. I was turned down by agents that I thought should represent me. People don’t realize in showbiz there are more “no’s” than “yes’s”. People just see the “yes’s” and the “yes’s”are all that matter in the end. Having a deep sense of purpose for this vocation is what gets me through the valleys.

Any advice you’d give to actors just starting out?

Understand true success in show business is a marathon, not a sprint. Take your time and find who you are as an artist and what sets you apart and gives you a noticeable distinguishable quality. Talent is the foundation that you must have, but then there are the connections and ability to market your skill set to the industry. Just know if you build something special and sustainable, they will come. Fame should never be the aim, but moreover, to become a self-realized artist. Have a vision and a vision statement because success always follows a blueprint.

What’s in store for you after Chess?

On Saturday, July 6th, I will be headlining the KJAZZ (88.1) FM JAZZFEST at the Promenade at the Howard Hughes Center. I will be performing with my 6-piece little big band. Showtime will be at 6-8pm. I sing, tap and will take you back to the days of Swing Era but with a new twist! I’ve even hired Austin Yancey from our Chess orchestra to join me on this performance. See the KJAZZ website for details: http://jazzandblues.org/features/2013/05/westsideJazzfest/

Anything else you’d like to share?

I also play a lead supporting role is a feature film called Salvation Street that will be coming out in December 2013. It’s my second film with producer Brad Wilson. And with the recent signing with Resolution Talent, I am excited about the new opportunities that lie ahead. In addition to film and TV, my next dream is to grace the stages of the Mark Taper Forum, The Ahmanson and Broadway! I believe that every great entertainer must always refine and exalt their art on the theater stage!

How can fans stay updated about your projects?

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