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Issue Date: November 2006 Issue

‘Grey’ Matters

Christopher Johnston

Apparently Dr. Richard Webber makes house calls. Or at least James Pickens Jr., the Cleveland native who portrays Webber on ABC’s hit show “Grey’s Anatomy,” is up for a visit back home. An alumnus of Karamu House’s workshop program, Pickens is co-producing “Gospel! Gospel! Gospel!” at Karamu (through Nov. 5), and hopes to return for the final weekend as the narrator. Pickens recently spoke to us from Seattle, where he was filming exterior scenes for “Grey’s Anatomy.”

What kind of impact did Karamu have on you?
It’s immeasurable. I was at Karamu right after I got my art degree at Bowling Green State University. I never intended to be an actor. So, if there’s such a thing as fate tapping you on the shoulder, it tapped me on the shoulder.

How did you get involved in “Gospel! Gospel! Gospel!”
The creator, choreographer and director, Otis Sallid, is a good friend. He choreographed one of the first productions that I did in New York 20 years ago. A couple of years ago, he mounted this gospel musical review in L.A. at a small church and invited my wife and I. There was something tugging at me spiritually that wanted to give back to Cleveland, so I said, “Well, there is a historic theater that would be a great launching pad for this show.” And that’s how we got Karamu involved.

What is it like being on a huge hit such as “Grey’s Anatomy?”
As an actor, you’re extremely lucky if one of these comes along once in your career. I’m so appreciative and humbled, and I don’t take it for granted. I work with some of the most talented people in Hollywood. It doesn’t hurt that you’re on a show with 
20-plus million viewers every week.   

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