Reg E. Cathey Takes On Beckett

Reg E. Cathey, known for roles on “House of Cards” and “The Wire,” has acted onstage in Julie Taymor’s The Green Bird and in Talk, for which he won an Obie. Next he appears opposite Brian Dennehy in Beckett’s Endgame at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Conn., Jan. 5-Feb. 5.

What’s your first theatrical memory?
I grew up in Germany. My dad was an Army officer, and my mom worked for the Department of Defense. I saw a USO show of Guys and Dolls when I was 9 years old, and I remember Adelaide coming out wearing a towel and singing, “A person could develop a cold.” I thought, “This is what I’ve got to do.” I wanted to do something where women were walking around in towels.

You came back to your birthplace of Alabama as a teen in the early ’70s. How did that transition affect you?
If you were a black kid on an Army base, you didn’t just represent your parents and your country but every black person in America. So we were taught very young that you don’t fight, you spoke well, you stood up straight and you put forth your argument forthrightly. When I came back to America it wasn’t like that at all. You didn’t have to represent anybody but yourself. It was very difficult for me. But you come to understand we’re evolving. We’re not what we were, and we’re not what we’re going to be.