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Morris Chestnut has staying power

Morris Chestnut made a name for himself as Ricky, a college-bound football star whose life was cut short, in the heart-wrenching 1991 film "Boyz n the Hood."

Since then, Chestnut has tackled a variety of roles. He's been a groom-to-be dealing with his fiancee's infidelity in "The Best Man"; an alien with a soft spot for humans on ABC's "V"; and Vivica A. Fox's love match in "Two Can Play That Game."

This weekend, Chestnut will be on stage at the Lyric for five performances of "What My Husband Doesn't Know," a "Fatal Attraction"-esque drama, written, directed and produced by Morgan State University alumnus David E. Talbert. Chestnut plays Paul, a handyman who tempts a married woman, played by former Destiny's Child member Michelle Williams.

"This play is extremely engaging," Chestnut said. "I love to watch — any time I'm not on stage — and listen to the audience's reaction — especially in the second act. … It is a thriller. There is comedy. It is an engaging, entertaining play. If I wasn't in it, I would watch it. It's a play I can watch over and over again."

Chestnut said he became involved with the play in large part because of his professional relationship with Talbert. The two have worked on a number of projects together.

"The goal was to blanket the country, brand the title and then turn it into a feature film," Chestnut explained. "With Hollywood making less and less movies, you need to do more than have money and a good script."

The feature-length film — starring Chestnut — should begin shooting the middle of next year.

Starring in a traveling play might not be what you expect from an actor with Chestnut's resume. But it's all part of improving as an actor, he said.

"In the past, I would do a movie and wait for the next job," Chestnut said. "Now I really get into my craft. I continue to work. I'm doing this play and the TV show at the same time. Even when this is over, I'll meet with my acting coach."

Chestnut has attracted a following for his looks as much as for his acting abilities.

"I've always tried to focus on my next job as an actor," he said. "I just want to improve and get better at my craft. If I was only focused on being a sex symbol, I don't really think I would be here today. … [But] I'm cool with that. As long as I'll be able to keep working."

Chestnut has been seen most recently on "American Horror Story," where he plays a security officer. The horror-thriller, created by Ryan Murphy of "Glee," centers around a family living in a haunted house. The role and script keep Chestnut guessing.

"When we're filming it, we never know what's going on," he said. "Normally, we'll get an entire script ahead of time. With this show, we get one or two acts at a time. ... I'm looking forward to the finale. It's promising to be a blast."

Chestnut doesn't know what will happen to his character on the show.

"I don't know about next season — I'm not sure they know about next season," Chestnut said with a laugh. "It is great to be a part of something so different. That is why cable is doing so well, because they are doing so many shows that are outside of the box. This show would never be on a network. Being on cable allows you the freedom to do something different."

As for any future collaborations between Chestnut and Murphy? He's unsure.

"We'll see what happens," Chestnut said. "We've talked about a few things. ... He seems to have his finger on the pulse. He has this show and 'Glee.' They are at completely opposite ends of the spectrum. I think he's somewhat of a genius."

Chestnut will appear next year in the movie "Think Like A Man." He'll also begin filming the sequel to the 1999 ensemble film "The Best Man." The film, which will feature a majority of the cast from the first installment, has received the green light from Universal.

After reading the script, Chestnut said he's looking forward to being a part in the continuation of the romantic dramedy.

"The sequel is going to be better than the first one," he said. "There is going to be a little more of everything. There's going to be more laughter, more crying. It will be an emotional roller coaster. It think people will really enjoy it."


If you go

"What My Husband Doesn't Know" runs Friday through Sunday at the Patricia & Arthur Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric, 140 W. Mount Royal Ave. Tickets start at $40.50. Call 410-547-7328 or go to ticketmaster.com. Venue information: 410-685-5086 or lyricoperahouse.com.

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