Sources: Theater Jones – By Cathy O’Neal | All Things Michael
Born: In Okinawa Japan, lives in San Antonio, TX
First Film: Red Cape. Directed and funded by college student, still not finished.
How did you get the part in Motown the Musical?
My aunt told my mom about the show because she had gone to see it, so my mom looked it up and saw they were having an open audition. She sent them the video of me singing “Who’s Loving You” in my sixth-grade talent show, which is one of the songs in the show. I originally booked one week in New York with the show, then one of the boys in the show left, and they put me in, so I did the Broadway show. Then, I got called to do the tour. We’ve been on the tour for a couple of weeks, but I have been with the show for nine months.
How did you prepare to play someone as well known as Michael Jackson?
I like to call it “YouTube University.” Because we live in this day and age, all you have to do is type “Michael Jackson” into the computer, and you can see everything about him — his family, his performances, his influences. Michael Jackson didn’t so much make up moves, he imitated ones he saw on TV and in concerts, so that’s what I did. I looked up James Brown [one of Jackson’s major influences] and watched his moves and then I watched how Michael Jackson did James Brown’s moves. The crowds expect to see Michael Jackson in the show, not Nathaniel Cullors, but Michael Jackson.
What age is Michael Jackson in the show?
It’s when he auditioned for Motown when he was 11 with his brothers, the entire Jackson Five.
What songs do you sing in the show?
I sing four of the Jackson Five’s major hits: “Who’s Loving You,” “ABC,” “I Want You Back” and “I’ll Be There,” but only portions of the last three. Like a medley.
Who worked with you to prepare you?
In New York, I had a voice teacher who helped me. How I sing in the show, that’s not at all how I sing in real life. She really helped me push my voice to the next level to be louder and better. The moves are pretty open. They give you a set of moves that you have to do, but then, they tell you to add your own moves. That’s what makes Motown different. They don’t give you all the exact moves, they want you to add your own things to it. I basically do the same moves every night, but I might add an extra spin to it on some nights. I’ve figured out how I want to do it. Some nights I do more than other nights.
Is there anything in the show or about being Michael Jackson that you, Nathaniel, relate to?
When I met Berry Gordy, he said that I reminded him of Michael. Now that I’m 14, I relate to when a news reporter asked Michael Jackson what he would do about his voice changing, and he said, “It happens.” That’s really how I try to approach everything. It just happens. I just live it day by day.
Do you have a favorite Michael Jackson song?
His Motown audition song, “Who’s Loving You.” That’s when I feel closest to Michael. It was his audition song, and it was my audition song.
In addition to playing Michael Jackson, Cullors plays the young Berry Gordy and the young Stevie Wonder. He shares the roles with another young performer, Leon Outlaw Jr. They each perform four times a week. Motown the Musical runs at the Winspear through Aug. 16.
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