King directed a then-unknown Denzel Washington. "He played Malcolm X in When Chickens Came Home to Roost," King began, "and it was amazing. He looked like Malcolm, walked with his rhythm and, quite simply, embodied him. Audiences have had the same reaction to his performance in Hurricane, but Denzel accomplishes this with every role he does. When he did research for When Chickens Came Home to Roost, he looked at one book for six hours. Nobody knows what he's doing until the performance happens."
And what, exactly, is the "it" factor? King admits that it's still a mystery. "In actors it's not hard to see, but with actresses it's extremely difficult. I think the male animal is an interesting species. The way they protect themselves, walk away, return and listen. You need those things, and actors who are astute can transfer it to their performances. But with women, you often can't tell. And you don't know. In Hollywood or in the theater, men think they know and understand women, but they don't."
NFT's next production, James Baldwin: A Soul on Fire by Howard Simon, is now playing at the Henry Street Settlement through April 30. Too often today, he said, plays rarely move past a staged reading. "And very often the people who come to readings only give a gut reaction, which won't lead a playwright anywhere," King adds. "The voices you want are from people who can produce it."
Away from NFT, King enjoys music, buys vast amounts of books and spends quiet time with other colleagues from the theater. He says that he would love to be the first producer of a jazz musical, and to produce a musical about Latinos in New York. "It would be written and directed by Latinos, and if I produced it, they could do whatever they wanted." He smiles. "It would be a show that would turn the city upside down."