Three questions with...Stu James of 'The Color Purple'

For almost three years, Atlanta native Stu James has embodied the role of Harpo on the national tour of “The Color Purple.” Being on the road can be tiring, he said, but he never tires of playing the character.

“It is very rewarding,” said James who lives in Los Angeles. “My goal is to find something new and fresh on stage. I look for different reactions from people which is going to get a different reaction from me.”

The musical returns to the Fox Theatre tomorrow for two weeks, giving James a chance to catch up with family, celebrate his Big Mama’s 100th birthday, and enjoy local favorites such as jerk chicken at Eats and dessert at Café Intermezzo. We chatted with James about the past, present and future.

Q: Is Harpo a ‘typical’ man?

A: He is very much not a typical man. Most men didn’t consider women to be equal back then. I understand what Alice Walker [author of the novel, “The Color Purple”] meant when she said he was a “new” man. He breaks the cycle of not respecting women and not allowing a woman to be his friend and his equal, but he had to grow into that because that belief is part of his lineage. He had to learn, if I’m going to have her in my life and if I’m going to love her, I have to love her in a different way.

Q: What do you miss the most about Atlanta?

A: Most definitely going to see my grandmother, Big Mama [she turns 100 on Sunday]. I have three older brothers and a younger sister. They always come to the show. My mom is so funny. I thought it would just be my nieces and nephews coming out, but she said she would want to come as well. They are very supportive good Southern folks.

Q: You changed careers when you moved from finance to acting. Any advice for today’s job seekers hoping to reinvent themselves?

A: Reinventing yourself is such an important thing. You have to sit down and brainstorm. Write something out and don’t judge it. Make sure it is your passion that you are writing out. My goal was to be a recording artist. I still plan to put out a collection of songs and ballads or something like that. I have a producer that I’m working with in LA. Hopefully that will be done when I get back. Music is what got me into this in the first place.

Theater Preview

"The Color Purple"

Tuesday - Sunday, September 27. $29.50-$125. Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. N.E. 404-881-2100,