“Baltimore, Maryland are you in the house?” the website quoted him as saying. “I hope you’re watching at home because I am making good on my promise that I would come to New York and become someone you’d be proud to call your native son.”
In a 2015 interview, De Shields said he first became connected to the arts through Baltimore’s Royal Theater, saying it “was where I would go for my window on the world.”
In an interview with The Daily Beast earlier this year, he said his time at the theater “was definitely the introduction I needed to know that I was not alone.”
The 73-year-old has been prolific in the world of theater as an actor, singer and director among other roles since he began performing in the late 1960s.
The ninth of 11 children who grew up in West Baltimore, De Shields got a breakout role in the 1975 play “The Wiz,” a Broadway adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” with an all black-cast.
He’d previously been nominated for two Tony Awards for his roles in 1997’s “Play On!” and 2001’s “The Full Monty.”