(CBS DETROIT/NEW YORK AP) — For Jeremy Pope, the idea of playing one of The Temptations was a daunting proposition. Thankfully, he got some advice and help from an original Temptation.

During rehearsals for the jukebox musical “Ain’t Too Proud — The Life and Times of the Temptations,” Otis Williams, the last original member, arrived to give his support.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MAY 21: Jeremy Pope and Laurie Metcalf attend the 2019 Tony Awards Nominees’ Luncheon at The Rainbow Room on May 21, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Jenny Anderson/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

“He just gave me the biggest hug and he said, ‘You got it. You got it.’ And he invited us to his hotel room, and we sat there for I think five hours and we just, he just told stories and talked,” Pope said.

While doing his research, which included listening to the band’s entire catalog and speaking to civil rights activist U.S. Rep. John Lewis, Pope made an important connection.

“I think one thing that I pay attention to now listening to the music is you can hear the struggle and the pain behind their voices and why they’re singing the songs the way they are singing. And if you go back to a marker and go, what was happening in that year? You’ll go, ‘Oh, civil rights. Oh, segregation.'”

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JUNE 03: Dominique Morisseau, Ephraim Sykes, and Sergio Trujillo attend the Tony Honors Cocktail Party Presenting The 2019 Tony Honors For Excellence In The Theatre And Honoring The 2019 Special Award Recipients at Sofitel Hotel on June 03, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

“Ain’t Too Proud,” which goes into Sunday’s Tony Awards with 12 nominations, charts the rise, sacrifices and challenges facing the 1960s group that sang “Baby Love” and “My Girl.” Audiences have noted its echoes with Black Lives Matter and racial tensions today.

Pope, who plays group member Eddie Kendricks, marvels at the fact that The Temptations were becoming icons “in a time where they were unsure of their own safety.”

For actor Ephraim Sykes, who plays David Ruffin, the reaction has also been deeply personal. One audience member came up after a show to tell Sykes that he would play “My Girl” when his daughter was born.

“This man cried in front of me, thinking about how much that song meant to him and that we brought it back for him in a real way,” Sykes said.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MAY 07: Ephraim Sykes visits the BUILD Series to discuss “Ain’t Too Proud” at Build Studio on May 07, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images)

Ruffin’s grandson thanked the actors for teaching audiences “not just the Temptations’ story but the story of our country.”

Working on the show, Derrick Baskin, who plays Williams, learned the many stories behind the beautiful notes.

“Knowing their stories more it helps us to actually appreciate what they put into the music spiritually and emotionally that I think audiences actually gravitate toward,” Baskin said.

Detroit native Dominique Morrisseau is the playwright behind it all. She wrote the story as a tribute to Detroit and The Temptations. CBS 62 is excited to see the success of “Ain’t Too Proud”.

© 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

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