'The Shrink Next Door' actor used role to study the craft of his castmates - Albuquerque Journal

‘The Shrink Next Door’ actor used role to study the craft of his castmates

Cornell Womack, Kathryn Hahn and Will Ferrell in a scene from “The Shrink Next Door.” (Courtesy of Apple TV+)

Cornell Womack has worked with some of the greatest actors during his career.

Working on the series “The Shrink Next Door” was no different.

“The whole process was wonderful,” he says. “It was joyful to do it.”

The Apple TV+ series is streaming now, yet Womack says that, when the series had its premiere, it was the first time he saw the entire cast.

“I was at the premiere and 95% of the people, I had never seen their faces,” he says. “I knew the cast members I had scenes with. It was an interesting time to be part of a series because of all the health protocols.”

Womack stars alongside Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, Kathryn Hahn and Casey Wilson in the series. “The Shrink Next Door” is inspired by a true story as it follows the story of Marty, played by Ferrell and the psychiatrist who turned his life around and then took it over.

When Marty first meets Dr. Ike, played by Rudd, he just wants to get better at boundaries.

Cornell Womack, right, in “The Shrink Next Door.” (Courtesy of Apple TV+)

Over 30 years, Marty will learn all about them, and what happens when they get crossed.

Bruce, played by Womack is a longtime employee of Marty’s that witnesses Marty’s long relationship with Dr. Ike morph into an exploitative relationship filled with manipulation, power grabs and dysfunction.

Because of the pandemic, Womack auditioned for the series from his kitchen.

He was also aware of the podcast the series is based on.

“I didn’t have access to the podcast,” he says. “I went through the process of analyzing the character. I didn’t hear anything for a long time. Then, my agent emailed me months later to tell me I got the role of Bruce.”

Womack says he and his character are similar in many ways.

“Of course, they didn’t want me to reproduce him with who I am,” he says. “Bruce has loyalty and creativity that he brings to life. That’s where the similarities end. Bruce is Italian American and I’m biracial. In essence, we don’t look alike, but they took a chance on me.”

Jumping in on set is second nature for Womack.

He says getting the opportunity to work with Ferrell, Rudd, Hahn and Wilson was fun, and he used the opportunity to see them work.

“Working with talented people is what I do,” he says. “I get inspired by them. I’ve been on Broadway with James Earl Jones. It’s wonderful when you work with people whose careers are just as big. I get the chance to see what kind of actor they are. I teach acting, as well, and it’s wonderful to see what their craft is like. I took the opportunity on this series to learn about them and what they are doing right.”

Womack was born in Jamaica, Queens, New York City, and moved often when it came to attending universities; from West Point to Julliard and then Georgetown, where his acting career took off, his passion for political consciousness awakened and he became a political activist for the anti-apartheid movement. He found a love in his activism enough to quit acting for 8 years, and get his doctorate and become a professor at the University of Pittsburgh in history.

Womack’s activism in Pittsburgh made him a public figure throughout the city, which led him to meet with the Justice Department in 1997 about police brutality.

He recently spent a month on vacation in New Mexico, where he rented a place with his dog.

“I stayed just outside of Santa Fe,” he says. “Let me tell you, I’ve never seen lightning like that. It was a trip to decompress. My career has been a crazy journey and I’ve enjoyed all aspects of it. I’m here to show people to never give up. Longevity does have its rewards. If you want to do this career, you have to love the craft and learn to tolerate uncertainty.”

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