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David Alan Grier talks 'A Soldier's Play,' cooking and more

David Alan Grier stars in "A Soldier's Play,"

David Alan Grier stars in "A Soldier's Play," which opens Tuesday on Broadway. Credit: Getty Images/Dia Dipasupil

David Alan Grier is shot dead in “A Soldier’s Play,” but there’s no need for spoiler alerts. It happens in the first 10 seconds.

This Roundabout Theatre Company production marks the Broadway debut of Charles Fuller’s play, a military drama and mystery set on a segregated Louisiana army base in 1944. It ran Off-Broadway in 1981, earning a Pulitzer Prize and showcasing the talents of then-rising stars Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson and Grier, who played a guitar-strummin’ private. He later played a corporal in the film version (1984’s “A Soldier’s Story”) and now has been promoted to Sgt. Waters, a strict officer hated by the black soldiers in his company, who appears post-mortem in flashbacks. Blair Underwood portrays a captain assigned to investigate Waters’ murder, Jerry O’Connell plays a conflicted white officer and former NFL All-Pro Nnamdi Asomugha is a Negro Baseball League star turned soldier.

Grier, 63, is that rare amalgam — a comedian (TV’s “In Living Color”), singer (“Dreamgirls”), dramatic actor (David Mamet’s “Race”) and, yes, food blogger (at chocolateglutton.com).

This is your third time around with this story.

I remember when it won the Pulitzer Prize. Back then [plays] usually had one ethnic character — one black dude who was supposed to be the spokesman for an entire race and culture. But [here] was a stage full of black men and they all had different points of view politically, culturally, socially. This is one of the things I told [our current] cast — how you can feel the audience, and who they align with. You can see it, you can hear it, from their energy and response, and it’s not always what you’d expect.

What’s it like getting beaten up on stage each night?

It’s funny, when I accepted the part, I’d forgotten about that. (He laughs.) I go back and read it and I’m like, oh my God, what did I sign up for? Then we started choreographing these fights, and it’s just … a lot of Epsom salts and Advil.

Really.

Yeah, man. (He laughs again.) ‘Cause it hurts. Shortly before each show we have a “fight call,” where we walk through the fight. It only takes a few minutes. You go at half speed, like practicing dance steps. I step here, you step there, I put my arm here, you put yours there. Because in the heat of the moment, if I don’t position my body properly, if the other actor kicks me or punches in a different way, you can really be hurt. I never have been. I’ve been punched, but not right on the dot. It’s designed to look brutal but doesn’t feel brutal. Hopefully.

Hey, seeing as how you’re a foodie and the big game is nearing, what’s the perfect Super Bowl menu?

Well … I was at a friend’s house once — Michelle Beadle at ESPN — and one of the things we ate was … a black bean jalapeño chili-cheese dip. It was amazing. So the next year, I wanted to try it and asked her who made it, but she didn’t know. She’d opened her house and people just brought stuff. It was basically canned beans, canned chili, a big brick of Velveeta cheese and some jalapeños. I decided to elevate it. I got organic black beans, soaked them, slow-cooked them for hours, then I made my own Velveeta-like spread out of artisan organic cheese. Yeah, it took hours, and at the end of the day I was like, wow, maybe I should’ve just gone the ghetto route, done canned everything and thrown it in the slow cooker. Perhaps I overthought this.

Sounds good either way.

That is THE ONE dish. That and chicken wings. Yet the wings I make are not Buffalo chicken wings. That is a desecration. The only way to eat chicken wings is the whole “flapper” — the entire wing, deep-fried. I make my own blue-cheese dip from scratch. Those two items are essential  for Super Bowl Sunday.

Did you pick up this love of cooking from your mom?

Nahhh. My favorite thing my mom made. I thought it was a French dish with toast and a cream sauce. Years later I looked around, couldn’t find it, then finally realized — it was cream chipped beef on toast. (He laughs.) My mom was a Depression baby. But the way she framed it was genius. She said, "Listen, I only do this dish for you, David, because you’re my youngest. It’s when you’re very good." She’d make it on my birthday. Cream? She’d use cornstarch and milk. I’m going to do a dressed-up version of it for my blog.

Still, there’s nothing like what mom makes.
It was amazing.

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