Meet the cast of 'The Piano Lesson' on Broadway
The first revival of August Wilson's play has a star-studded cast, feature Samuel L. Jackson and Danielle Brooks.
August Wilson's play The Piano Lesson is all about legacy. In the play, two adult siblings feud over what to do with a family heirloom: a hand-carved piano passed down from their ancestors. Whether they decide to sell or keep it will determine how future generations will remember their family's history.
The Piano Lesson has its own time-honored legacy. The show premiered in 1987 at Yale Repertory Theatre and opened on Broadway in 1990. Since then, the play has won the Pulitzer Prize, received five Tony Award nominations, and continued to cemente Wilson's status as an iconic American playwright following shows like Fences and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, all part of Wilson's legendary Century Cycle of plays exploring his Pitsburgh hometown. However, The Piano Lesson has never been revived on Broadway, until now.
With a star-studded cast of stage and screen stars, The Piano Lesson revival — playing through January 15 at the Barrymore Theatre — is sure to earn its own memorable place in Broadway history. Learn more about The Piano Lesson's cast below and the Broadway shows, movies, and TV series you might recognize them from.
Who is in the cast of The Piano Lesson on Broadway?
The cast of The Piano Lesson on Broadway features Samuel L. Jackson as Doaker Charles, Danielle Brooks as Berneice, and John David Washington as Boy Willie, Michael Potts as Wining Boy, April Matthis as Grace, Trai Byers as Avery, and Ray Fisher as Lymon.
Read more below to learn more about the cast of The Piano Lesson revival.
Samuel L. Jackson
The Piano Lesson marks Samuel L. Jackson's third Broadway credit. He last appeared as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in The Mountaintop in 2011, and he made his Broadway debut in the original production of The Piano Lesson in 1990, when he was an understudy for Boy Willie and Lymon. Now, in a full-circle moment, he's playing the wise uncle Doaker Charles in the play's first Broadway revival.
Jackson is primarily a screen actor, and his notable roles are almost too many to count. He received a BAFTA Award, and received Oscar and Golden Globe nominations, for playing Jules Winnfield (a role written specifically for him) in Pulp Fiction. He's also a Golden Globe nominee for Against the Wall, A Time to Kill, and Jackie Brown, and his other famous films include Snakes on a Plane, Jurassic Park, The Incredibles, Do The Right Thing, Unbreakable, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, in which he plays Nick Fury. For his decades of work, he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Oscar in 2022.
Since 1980, he's been married to actor and producer LaTanya Richardson Jackson, who makes her Broadway directorial debut with the 2022 Piano Lesson revival.
Danielle Brooks stars in The Piano Lesson as Berniece, one of the play's two central siblings. Berniece wants to keep their family's heirloom piano as a reminder of their history, even though that history haunts her. The Piano Lesson marks Brooks's second time performing on Broadway; she earned a 2016 Tony nomination and a Theatre World Award for playing the strong-willed Sofia in The Color Purple revival. She also starred as Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing as part of Shakespeare in the Park in 2019.
Most audiences, however, will know Brooks as Tasha "Taystee" Jefferson on Netflix's Orange Is the New Black. That role earned her two NAACP Image Award nominations for Best Actress in a Comedy Series, as well as a Screen Actors Guild Award win alongside her co-stars and a Young Hollywood Award for Breakthrough Actress. She also starred as gospel singer Mahalia Jackson in the Lifetime movie Mahalia and earned an Emmy Award nomination for producing it.
Brooks now leads the superhero series Peacemaker as Leota Adebayo, opposite John Cena.
John David Washington
John David Washington got his start as a child actor with small parts in Malcolm X and Devil in a Blue Dress. In the past five years, Washington has exploded onto the Hollywood scene as a bonafide leading man. He rose to fame starring as Ron Stallworth in Spike Lee's BlackKlansman, earning Golden Globe and SAG Award nominations. He followed that movie up with starring performances as The Protagonist in Christopher Nolan's Tenet and as Malcolm in Malcolm & Marie, opposite Zendaya.
Now, Washington is making his Broadway debut in The Piano Lesson as Boy Willie, the sibling who wants to sell the title heirloom and use the money to buy back the land where his ancestors were enslaved.
Washington is also the son of multi-award-winning actor Denzel Washington, who has also starred in August Wilson's Fences on Broadway and in the film adaptation.
From the musical comedies The Book of Mormon and The Prom to the dramas The Iceman Cometh and 1984, Michael Potts's Broadway resume spans all types of shows and roles. Now, he's playing the comic role Wining Boy, Doaker Charles's older brother who's stuck in his bygone glory days.
Potts last appeared on stage this year in Richard III, the Shakespeare in the Park production starring Danai Gurira. He's also known for his screen roles as Detective Maynard Gilbough on True Detective; Brother Mouzone on The Wire; Frasier C. Robinson III, Michelle Obama's father, on The First Lady; and Slow Drag in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, the 2020 film adaptation of another August Wilson play.
Coincidentally, Potts performed opposite Denzel Washington in The Iceman Cometh on Broadway in 2018. Four years later, in The Piano Lesson, he's performing opposite John David Washington, Denzel Washington's son.
April Matthis is making her Broadway debut as Grace in The Piano Lesson, but she's been keeping busy on the New York Theatre scene. Not only is she performing in this show this Fall, but with the theatre company Elevator Repair Service, she also co-conceived Baldwin and Buckley at Cambridge, a restaging of a debate between James Baldwin and William F. Buckley, Jr. that's opening off Broadway at The Public Theater. Matthis also starred in HELP at The Shed last season and has also appeared in Off-Broadway shows like Toni Stone and the Pulitzer-winning Fairview. For all Matthis's work, she's been honored with two Obie Awards.
Trai Byers stars on the TV show Empire, and he also appeared as James Foreman in the 2014 Best Picture Oscar nominee Selma alongside David Oyelowo, Oprah Winfrey, Wendell Pierce (who's also on Broadway this season in Death of a Salesman), and more. Now, the screen actor is turning to the stage, making his Broadway debut in The Piano Lesson as the supportive preacher Avery.
Ray Fisher is the fourth Piano Lesson cast member making his Broadway debut. He plays Lymon, a friend of Boy Willie's who acts as a sounding board for the members of the Charles family. Fisher has appeared off Broadway as Muhammad Ali in Fetch Clay, Make Man. He's also appeared on screen with Broadway stars — namely, in the series Women of the Movement, starring Tony Award winner Adrienne Warren as the mother of Emmett Till. Amid all his credits, Fisher is best known as Victor Stone/Cyborg in multiple DC Cinematic Universe films including Batman v. Superman and Justice League.