Erik Todd Dellums. Image from Wikipedia.
By Kim Kalunian, WPRO News
To talk to Erik Todd Dellums you’d never think he would be playing a sinister pedophile on Showtime’s hit series, “Homeland.”
Dellums, a Brown University alum, now resides in the Washington, D.C. area, and was cleaning up after his new German Shepherd puppy moments before phoning WPRO.
Once on the line he joked that he “graduated last year” and is 21-years-old. He peppers the term of endearment “darling” into his interview, and laughs with such warmth, it’s hard to pair the voice with the mysterious Dr. Graham he plays on the show.
Dellums made his “Homeland” debut as Graham Sunday, administering heroin to the injured Nicholas Brody (Damien Lewis), who lies at the center of the show’s plot.
“Aside from being a pedophile, he is a fugitive making his own life in this building known as the Tower of David,” said Dellums of Graham.
The Tower of David is a real place in Venezuela – a skyscraper that went unfinished and is now populated by thousands of squatters. Graham is one of those squatters n the fictionalized Tower of David, though his role in Brody’s trajectory is not yet clear.
“We will see exactly what occurs when the show progresses,” said Dellums. “That’s the joy of ‘Homeland’—I can’t say anything.”
Dellums, who actually graduated from Brown in 1986 and is 49, said working on "Homeland" was similar to being in the world the characters inhabit.
“It felt as if I really was working for the CIA,” said Dellums, who said he had to sign a series of non-disclosure forms and remain tight-lipped about his involvement. “I was hired on a Friday and next thing I knew I was flying to Puerto Rico on a Saturday.”
Now in its third season, “Homeland” centers on the CIA, homeland security and terrorism. It’s won multiple Golden Globe and Emmy Awards.
Dellums said his role in the series “fell out of the sky” – he said he had left acting for several years but his friendship with director Clark Johnson brought him back to the small screen.
Although he studied comparative politics at Brown and earned a degree in political science, he said he’s always been an actor at heart.
“I couldn’t have survived Brown had I not taken acting classes there,” he said.
Dellums was about to head off to law school after his undergrad years in Providence, but a professor urged him to pursue his dream.
“And that’s what I’ve been doing ever since,” he said.
Some of his favorite roles include Luther Mahoney on NBC’s “Homicide: Life on the Streets,” Bayard Rustin in the HBO film “Boycott” and Dr. Randall Frazier on HBO’s “The Wire.”
He’s also done voiceover work for The Travel Channel, Discovery Network and video games like “Fallout 3” and “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.”
“I owe that to Brown from being a DJ [there] for three years,” he said. Dellums used to host a late-night jazz show on WBRU.
Dellums said he’s working on another video game project, but couldn’t specify what. He said if “Homeland” is the last project he ever works on as an actor, he wouldn’t be upset.
“It’s a hell of way to go out,” he said. “I’m working with a brilliant cast and extraordinary writers and, of course, one of my closest friends Clark Johnson.”
For now we’ll have to wait and see what Dr. Graham does next on “Homeland” and what Dellums does in his career, but before he parted, Dellums offered this Langston Hughes quote:
“Hold fast to dreams for if dreams die life is but a broken winged bird that cannot fly,” he said. “It’s a lesson that I’ve had to learn over, and over, and over again, and I pray that it’s one that each listener will embrace, especially if you’re taking that creative journey.”
An award-winning journalist and theater critic - and a performer at heart. Kim covers everything from politics and breaking news to food and theater.