Shakespeare has a new twist in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Fat Ham by James Ijames—currently playing on Broadway at American Airlines Theatre—and a very familiar face is in the leading role. The Neighborhood's Marcel Spears stars in this modern-day remake of the classic Hamlet.

"It centers around a queer Black kid in the south named Juicy (Hamlet) who is trying to navigate his insane family, the mysterious murder of his father, his mother’s new marriage and a whole host of other challenges that ask everyone that very famous question, 'To be or not to be,'" Spears tells EBONY. "I’ve always wanted to work at the Public Theater in New York City, so I jumped at the chance to be a part of this. That turned into a move from the Public to Broadway!"

Cast of Fat Ham. Image: Joan Marcus.
The cast of Fat Ham. Image: Joan Marcus.

Spears understands how Juicy, "is at a place where he has the responsibility of breaking some of the toxic cycles and 'generational curses' of his family. I definitely feel like that is also a responsibility I share," he says. "A lot of young people are finding their voices and many times that work starts right at home."

Originally from New Orleans, Spears got his classical theater training in New York City. "I’ve been doing theater almost consistently since leaving grad school. The pandemic slowed things down a bit but, I always want to have the chance to do live theater." Now on Broadway, Fat Ham has been nominated for five Tony Awards this year, including Best Play. "That's historic," Spears declares. "It proves that Black theater is capable of taking a show to Broadway. Black theaters have often had to do the same quality of work as other regional theaters with less funding and support, and this is hopefully a step in the direction of change."

Spears' other stage family, from CBS' The Neighborhood, is thrilled to support his love of theater. "Cedric the Entertainer, Sheaun McKinney and Lil Hank [Greenspan] have all seen it and they all loved it," he exclaims. "The rest of the cast is coming in a few weeks to see the show, and I can’t wait!" Like his stage character Juicy, Marty is also going through a transformation on the hit TV sitcom, which was just renewed for a sixth season. "I think Marty is really trying to find himself again. He had some tough setbacks in season five so this is his comeback. Maybe he and Neicie will get back together, fingers crossed!"

Fat Ham runs on Broadway through June 25, 2023, and Spears already has his sights on the next Shakespeare vehicle he'd like to conquer. "I would love to try my hand at The Comedy of Errors!"