Norm Lewis was born on June 2, 1963 in Tallahassee, Florida. He is a prolific theatre, film, and television actor who has starred in Broadway shows including The Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables, Porgy and Bess, and Chicago. Growing up, he sang in choirs at church and later in high school, where he was exposed to Broadway music among other genres. However, he did not immediately pursue a performance career — he continued to sing in college but majored in business, and he left early when he got a job offer at The Orlando Sentinel, a Florida newspaper. He worked in the paper's advertising and production departments for five years and continued to sing in contests at bars for fun. At one such contest, one of the judges was a producer on a cruise ship, and he offered Lewis a gig. There, he met professional performers who encouraged him to go to New York and audition for Broadway projects.
That initial leap led Lewis to make his Broadway debut in The Who's Tommy in 1993. It was the first of a dozen Broadway appearances that now include Billy Flynn in Chicago in 2004, King Triton in The Little Mermaid in 2007, Porgy in Porgy and Bess in 2011 (for which he was nominated for a Leading Actor Tony Award among several other awards), and Agwe in Once On This Island in 2018. When he took on the role of Javert in Les Misérables on Broadway in 2006, he became the first Black actor to play the role in a professional production in English. He was also the first Black actor to take on the titular role in The Phantom of the Opera; he played that role for a little under a year starting in 2014. Off Broadway, he has played the title role in Sweeney Todd, Eddie Satin in Golden Boy, and he has appeared in The Tempest and Two Gentlemen of Verona with The Public Theater.
Lewis also has numerous credits beyond the New York City theatre scene, and he has performed many of his Broadway roles on regional stages. One of his first theatre credits was as Agwe in a 1992 Gateway Playhouse production in Bellport, New York. Lewis has performed Javert on London's West End, at The O2 Arena in London, and at The Muny in St. Louis. He also developed the role of Porgy in Porgy and Bess in Cambridge, Massachusetts when the American Repertory Theater was reimagining the Gershwins' opera.
Onscreen, Lewis was most recently seen as Eddie in the 2020 film Da 5 Bloods and as Caiaphas in NBC's live broadcast of Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert. On TV, he has appeared in All My Children, Scandal, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and Pose, among others. In stage-screen hybrid performances, he performed as Javert in the filmed concert production Les Misérables in Concert: The 25th Anniversary in 2010 and assumed the role of Joe in Kern & Hammerstein's Show Boat, a stage production at Lincoln Center filmed for PBS.
Photo credit: Peter Hurley