Among his various creative occupations: acting, producing, writing and ministering, Kenneth Mosley’s most recent endeavor is playing the lead role of Motown’s founder Berry Gordy in "Motown the Musical." Mosley chatted with Indiana Daily Student over the phone about his role in the musical as well as coming to IU this week to perform at the IU Auditorium.
Indiana Daily Student: You’re an author, television producer, actor and even a minister. How do you fit that all into your creative life?
Mosley: Balance. It’s just like the seasons of the year. You do certain things in a particular season when it fits into that season of your life, and that’s kind of how you balance all of life. You can’t do everything at one time, so you do what you can when you should be doing it. A lot of that for me is driven by my goals and creative desires. Before going on this tour, I did some television work over the summer, so I’ll be on the next season of “Grace & Frankie,” I was on the season of “Black-ish” and “Ten Days in the Valley,” which is a new show on ABC. So that allowed me to do my TV stuff and that was acting. And then I also wrote and produced a comedy, a sitcom. So that was over the summer as well. So it’s just all about trying to fit everything in, you know, with what my schedule allows.
IDS: How did you get involved in the production of "Motown"?
Mosley: My agent submitted me for an audition for it. I’d actually auditioned a couple of years ago when it was going back to Broadway. I didn’t get cast in that, but it came around again, and I was cast as the lead role of Berry Gordy Jr.
IDS: Have you met Gordy?
Mosley: I have, I’ve actually auditioned for him, too. My final one was about a series of four auditions in Los Angeles, which is where I’m based, and the last one was with him as well as with other members of the creative team and it was about a three hour audition, the final one was. We got an opportunity to talk there, and once I got the role then of course I met him a couple of other times after that.
IDS: Can you tell me a little bit about Gordy?
Mosley: A lot of people know the music of Motown, and sometimes they don’t even know that the music they’re listening to these days is from Motown. But Motown has a very, very steep library of music, from the Jackson 5 to Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight and Smokey Robinson. So many people and so much music, but a lot of people don’t know that the engine behind all of that music and the heart in many ways is Berry Gordy Jr. He’s still alive, he’s in his 80s and I’m privileged to play this person who is iconic in his own right because he started Motown based off of an $800 loan from his family members. They gave him $800 to start Motown. He began it in a small house in Detroit. It turned into a huge music-making entity that really affected the world. So he’s the founder of Motown, he is a songwriter, he is a producer, and he and his family really banded together to make Motown and it just took off.
IDS: What have your preparations been like to play the role of Gordy?
Mosley: A lot of my research came from looking up a lot of videos of Motown and its artists, interviews with Mr. Gordy, as well as reading his autobiography which is entitled “To Be Loved.” That gave me a whole lot of insight into Mr. Gordy and his mindset during different stages of his life, of Motown, and how he felt about his family and having so much appreciation for the people who helped Motown out along the way.
IDS: So how does the show begin in the musical?
Mosley: The stage begins with Motown’s 25th anniversary special, which was a TV special in the '80s. That TV special was actually the first time the world got to see Michael Jackson do the moonwalk, but it was a TV special dedicated to celebrating Motown and Mr. Gordy for founding Motown. We see a really big number with The Temptations and The Four Tops, and they’re doing what is called “The Battle of the Stars,” which is a medley of numbers that made them very famous over the years. Then you get a chance to flashback all the way to the beginnings of Motown, walk through all of those years, up to that time again. So you saw a really huge music number, it’s really stunning, it’s really effective. I’ve never not heard the crowd go wild, honestly.
IDS: What would you tell people who might not know much about Motown, much less the musical, to get them interested in it?
Mosley: I would say that you may not know a lot about Motown, but you know a lot of Motown’s music, from Diana Ross and the Supremes, to the Temptations, to Stevie Wonder. These are iconic people who came directly out of Motown. So really you are in some ways more familiar with Motown than you think and than you know. After that it’s just coming to see the back story of a huge musical entity.
IDS: What would you say the takeaways are for students and viewers of "Motown the Musical"?
Mosley: Well, I think everyone takes away something different based upon their life story, and where they’ve come from as well, but I do say music is really about a language of love, and that language transcends cultural backgrounds and economics and today’s political climate. With today being so divisive in so many ways politically, "Motown" is a show that is traveling across the country just as Motown singers did when the company was first founded. We’re traveling across the country trying to bring unity and love in a time where things are very divisive, very argumentative and in many ways very dissonant, which is a musical term that just means discordant and not matching, not sounding wonderful and harmonious. We are trying to bring love and harmony to people all across the nation because really we are more alike than we are different.
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