Actor-Musician Jalen Harris is Proudly Living His Dream in ‘Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations’

When Jalen Harris was 10 years old, he performed in a church play and continued his appreciation during his high school theater program.

Soon after Harris learned that the age to compete on FOX-TV’s American Idol was dropped from 16 to 15, and like any kid at that time he wanted to be a pop star. “My parents encouraged me and I made it on the show,” he recalled. “In my senior year of high school, I started modeling and working with an agent.”

This is how his path to a successful acting, singing, and modeling career was born, and today, he stars as Eddie Kendricks in Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations.

 The hit musical is heading to the Kimmel Cultural Campus’ Academy of Music from Wednesday, January 3 through Sunday, January 21, as part of the Broadway series.

“The Temptations and their soul-stirring hits are part of musical history and the public consciousness as much today as they were 50 years ago,” said Matias Tarnopolsky, president and CEO of The Philadelphia Orchestra and the Kimmel Center. “We are honored to present this hit Broadway musical in Philadelphia for the very first time, sharing the stories behind the music.”

Elijah Ahmad Lewis, Jalen Harris, Michael Andreaus, Harrell Holmes Jr., E. Clayton Cornelious from the National Touring Company of Ain’t Too Proud

He has been chosen for various television programs, national publications, and films including, Fist Fight (with Tracey Morgan, Ice Cube, and Charlie Day) and most recently his role in season 1 of Jordan Peele’s and the HBO series, Lovecraft Country.

His professional theater career began at age 20 in the role of a standby for Simba in the North American Broadway Tour of Disney’s The Lion King. “I’ve had so much gratitude for that opportunity and working with so many great acting coaches at the time.” Soon after, Motown came calling and he joined the national tour and originated his current role of Eddie Kendricks, which led him to his current success as an actor and musician.

In addition to his stellar theatrical presence, Harris is an R&B crossover recording artist, who works with a range of Grammy-winning and established producers from Mack Woodward to Matt Wilder. His first single “ManneKin” off his recent debut EP is streaming far and wide.

Featuring Grammy®-winning songs and Tony®-winning moves, Ain’t Too Proud is the electrifying musical that follows The Temptations’ extraordinary journey from the streets of Detroit to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

With their signature dance moves and unmistakable harmonies, they rose to the top of the charts, creating an amazing 42 Top Ten Hits – with 14 reaching #1 – and being voted the greatest R&B group of all time by Billboard Magazine in 2017.

The rest is history — how they met, the groundbreaking heights they hit, and how personal and political conflicts threatened to tear the group apart as the United States fell into civil unrest.

This thrilling story of brotherhood, family, loyalty, and betrayal is set to the beat of the group’s treasured hits, including My Girl, Just My Imagination, Get Ready, Papa Was a Rolling Stone, and so many more.

Stepping into the role of ‘Otis Williams’ is the original first national tour cast member, Michael Andreaus, and joining the tour from the Original Broadway Company is E. Clayton Cornelious as ‘Paul Williams.’ They join the current Classic Temptations Jalen Harris as Eddie Kendricks, Harrell Holmes Jr. as Melvin Franklin, and Elijah Ahmad Lewis as David Ruffin.

Harrel Holmes Jr., Jalen Harris, Dwayne P. Mitchell, Michael Andreaus, in the National Touring Company of Ain’t Too Proud. Photo Credit: Emilio Madrid

 How did The Lion King Tour prepare you for your role as Eddie Kendricks in Ain’t Too Proud?

It’s so different from being Eddie Kendricks. With The Lion King, I learned stage combat and theatrical stunt work. singing and speaking in other languages and exposing myself to another culture. It exposed me to a world of art and creativity. This, in turn, prepared me for this role. It is both a blessing and a true honor to play a musician when I am a musician. To understand the gravity of what it means to be a triple threat and the choreography we do is not for the faint of heart.

When did you begin this show?

We started rehearsal in New York in October 2021 and our first show was at the beautiful Kennedy Center in December 2021.

What has the experience of Ain’t Too Proud been?

The Lion King prepared me for a role like this. The demands on my body, my focus, and my vitality. They had a hard life during a trying era. To play a real person, an icon, and interpret becomes a greater task in that way. It’s such a whirlwind of the most spiritual experience during the last 2 years. We play these five classic performers and the five of us carry the show for two and a half hours. It has been blood, sweat, and tears from Day One to Year 2.

What else strikes you about this show?

It has been an amazing and transformative journey. The heart of the show is so powerful. It holds up a mirror to yourself – seeing what these guys went through – living through the Jim Crow era and times of intense discrimination. The music they made brought everyone together.

Without this show, I don’t think I would have been ready. Being in the show has given me the confidence I needed to record an album; I have stayed motivated since our first day in New York.

Jalen Harris

If you haven’t seen this musical, why should you come?

It is not what you expect it to be. It’s like you are at a concert, a movie, and a play all at the same time. Not only do you get to experience the beauty of the Temptations music and the Motown sound, but it also leaves you understanding that we are so much more alike than we are different.

If you have already seen this show, why should you come back?

It is fresher than ever with the set, costuming, and story-telling. It has a deeper and more refined landing because of the work that has been put in the story the last two years. Seeing it now amid the current climate in the world. The message of the story will touch the hearts of everyone. It is a loud, resounding message because of where we are in the world and I hope it brings some healing. It will be a different experience from when they saw it on Broadway or in any other city.

Do you have any touring rituals?

The guys and I love good food and playing cards. So, anytime we are in a city we have what we call “Temp Night” in which we go to a fancy restaurant or bar and have a great experience on the road. And then we hash it out with an engaging game of spades. We love it when we have time to play cards. My regular rituals include taking care of my body and meditating.

Do you have a few favorite songs in the show?

I love and I am truly obsessed with The Temptations and all of their music. I love Smokey Robinson and one of my favorites is If You Don’t Know Me By Now, sung by the actress who plays Josephine. It just resonates so well with my personal experience. It’s so beautiful and I love singing it.

I love Just My Imagination, and I have been singing that song since high school. Back then I just heard it at family gatherings. I am from Memphis where there was blues on the street corners. I have sung it at corporate events and at the casinos where I performed, so this is full circle. Cloud 9 was not a song I knew well, but when it came out it was one of my father’s favorite songs. Also, Papa Was a Rolling Stone, I know from movies and soundtracks and I know why it is such a great song.

Have you been to Philadelphia before this?

No, this is my first time. I am so excited. James T. Lane, the Broadway legend, is a Philly native, and I will ask him all of the places to go. His family will come and see us and I will have a few days off to see him perform.

I am looking forward to learning about the city; the history, the sites, and the awesome food. The city has amazing roots and an amazing legacy. That’s what I’m excited about.

What advice do you have for someone pursuing big performing dreams?

Step out in faith because this can be so challenging. Before you get the right manager and the right agent you can start things independently and garner the attention of millions of people. Back then I didn’t know I could start things – I didn’t know it was possible. But you can make shorts on social media. You can find theater and film actors who want to be featured and work with them.

I would encourage budding performers to do what they can on their own before signing a record deal. Plant the seeds and see who wants to support you, and I believe that each little seed will continue to grow. It has no choice but to continue to grow. The ground will force it out. I believe it will lead them to the places they want to go working with great writers, directors, and producers.

For Tickets: 

Tickets can be purchased by calling 215-893-1999 or online

at  In-person ticket sales can be conducted daily from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. at the Academy of Music Box Office, located at 240 S. Broad Street.

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