Three real-life pals play friends in True Colors’ ‘He-Man Ball’

The play runs through Oct. 15 at the regional theater, which focuses on Black storytelling.
From left, Twin (Neal Ghant), Sky (Eugene H. Russell IV) and Jello (Enoch King) challenge each other in "That Serious He-Man Ball." Photo: Eley Photo

Credit: Eley Photo

Combined ShapeCaption
From left, Twin (Neal Ghant), Sky (Eugene H. Russell IV) and Jello (Enoch King) challenge each other in "That Serious He-Man Ball." Photo: Eley Photo

Credit: Eley Photo

Credit: Eley Photo

This story was originally published by ArtsATL.

Three old friends gather at the basketball court to see who can win at the game and in life in playwright Alonzo D. Lamont’s “That Serious He-Man Ball,” presented by True Colors Theatre Company at Southwest Arts Center through Oct. 15.

To play the old friends, director Eric J. Little assembled a cast of Atlanta all-star actors: Eugene H. Russell IV, Neal Ghant and Enoch King, who themselves are also longtime friends.

“The main reason I wanted to use these three — beyond them being among the greatest Atlanta actors, period — is that they grew up together, they started acting at the same time,” Little said. “They’ve known each other for years. I just thought it was perfect for what the show is.”

The three performers have indeed known each other since the 1990s, when they began training as actors through Freddie Hendricks’ Youth Ensemble of Atlanta.

Credit: Courtesy of True Colors Theatre Company

Credit: Courtesy of True Colors Theatre Company

In a group interview, the three friends said “That Serious He-Man Ball” is their third professional play together. They previously appeared together in Georgia Shakespeare Festival’s “Romeo and Juliet” and “Antigone,” though their last show was over 15 years ago.

Knowing each other as well as they do lends the friendship in the new show an air of authenticity, they said. Still, Twin, Jello and Sky, the characters in the play, are frequently in conflict, as well as competition.

Ghant said their real-life friendship isn’t as explosive and emotional as the one in the play.

“We were having a conversation about this a few days ago. Though we know we’re acting, there’s some really cutting stuff in this show,” Ghant said. “There might be a time where we really have to check in with one another and ensure that. ‘Hey man. You’re good, right? That was a really intense scene.’ We have real, true feelings for one another, and sometimes it hurts us to say those things. Eugene plays the character Sky, but I’m still talking to Eugene, you know? We check in with one another.”

Credit: Courtesy of True Colors Theatre Company

Credit: Courtesy of True Colors Theatre Company

The emotions get as intense as the gameplay, something that has come up in rehearsals, King said.

“We know our own processes, and we allow the others to have their processes,” King said. “But we know how intense these processes are and what this show requires. Because of that, there are a lot of emotionally charged moments. You’re about to see some energy on the stage you haven’t seen before.”

To rehearse the play, which takes place on a half-court, the three actors also had to undergo basketball training with a coach, which has improved their skillset and their appreciation for athletes.

“For me, a little bit,” Russell said. “Mind you, it’s all relative. My game has improved a little bit from where it was.”

“It most definitely has,” King said. “I am not athletically astute when it comes to playing basketball. With the coach that we have had, I have a better idea about dribbling and shooting. It’s more controlled. It’s more precise. And I also definitely have a bigger respect for athletes and their ability to handle themselves in heightened situations. I understand it now, just even being in a choreographed space.”

King plays Jello, who has a dancer-like agility but doesn’t take the game too seriously.

Credit: Courtesy of Eric J. Little

Credit: Courtesy of Eric J. Little

“He’s the clown of the group,” King said. “So even with the language, he’s very jokey and trying to keep the mood light. It transfers over into how he plays. He plays for fun, it’s a game. It’s not Globetrotter-y, but it’s more lighthearted until things happen or aggression is given. Then that other side is presented.”

The game is a reflection of how the characters tackle life’s challenges.

“How our characters are is how our characters play,” King said. “The things that spark a certain energy in us, you see it shifts our game play, how we move, how we attack the rim or how we attack each other.”

Russell said the physicality of the show is not necessarily where its intensity lies.

“It’s a physical and unpredictable show, and often unpredictability is connected to the physicality,” he said. “Often, the unpredictability is connected to nonphysical things, just words. It’s interesting, without giving it away, what really sets us off. People would assume that the physical stuff would set us off, right? And sparks would fly because of the physical things that happen on a basketball court, but I think a lot of times in the show, the physical things are a manifestation of the non-verbal jousting and battling.”

Friends know you best, so they know where you’re most vulnerable.

“They’ve got background on you,” Russell said. “On the court, we know each other’s game, and we have background on each other as friends. A lot of people would think it would be more volatile between three strangers, but it’s uniquely volatile between three friends because we know things about each other.”

The play still focuses on friends who want the best for each other, though.

“The beauty of this piece is that, even within all of that, there are ways and many times when we are lifting each other up, or attempting to, even through the conflict,” Russell said. “That’s the interesting brotherhood. We still want more and better for each other.”

“That Serious He-Man Ball” is a theatrical event because audiences know what seasoned performers Ghant, King and Russell can deliver.

“Everybody knows us in the game,” Ghant said. “I hope people are excited. And I hope when we reveal this show, I hope it delivers.”

Russell agreed.

“‘That Serious He-Man Ball’ is such a ride, and it’s such a sneaky ride that I hope it sneaks up on the audience,” Russell said. “Because it sneaks up on us. Halfway through the show, I wouldn’t say we’re physically exhausted, but at that last line, we walk off the stage, and it’s like, ‘Oof.’”

King said pushing themselves emotionally leads to uncomfortable truths.

“I think it’s indicative of what the roles require,” he said. “When artists ask us how to get to the next levels, it does require a lot of vulnerability that a lot of people might not be comfortable with. We as artists are comfortable with the uncomfortable. We are OK with not being OK. That’s where the truth lies.”

The play kicks off the theater’s 20th anniversary, and its founder Kenny Leon once appeared alongside Tom Jones and Tony Vaughn in a 1988 Jomandi production of the show. Still, the current cast is not intimidated by that past ensemble, which occasionally also included veteran actor LaParee Young.

“The reason we aren’t fearful or intimidated is because all those actors from the original production have taken us under their wings and treated us as their sons in the arts,” Russell said. “All four of them could be on the front row for opening night, and I wouldn’t feel afraid that any of them would judge me.”

“Yup,” Ghant echoed in agreement.

“Throughout the years, every single one of them have all cheered for us, taken us under their wings, legit supported us, encouraged us, lifted us up, spoken life into us,” Russell said. “We know they’re rooting for us.”


“That Serious He-Man Ball”

Through Oct. 15. 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays; 11 a.m. Oct. 5 and 12. $20-$45. Southwest Arts Center, 915 New Hope Road, Atlanta. 404-532-1901,

Performance excerpts, songs and poetry

Tuesday, Sept. 26, 4:30-5:30 p.m. Free. MARTA Five Points Station, 30 Alabama St. SW, Atlanta.


Benjamin Carr, a member of the American Theatre Critics Association, is an arts journalist and critic who has contributed to ArtsATL since 2019. His plays have been produced at the Vineyard Theatre in Manhattan, as part of the Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Short Play Festival and at the Center for Puppetry Arts. His novel, “Impacted,” was published by The Story Plant in 2021.

Credit: ArtsATL

Credit: ArtsATL


ArtsATL (, is a nonprofit organization that plays a critical role in educating and informing audiences about metro Atlanta’s arts and culture. Founded in 2009, ArtsATL’s goal is to help build a sustainable arts community contributing to the economic and cultural health of the city.If you have any questions about this partnership or others, please contact Senior Manager of Partnerships Nicole Williams at

About the Author