‘Empire’ star opens new Chicago theater house
September 2nd, 2016
Antoine McKay, who played a pivotal character in the first season of “Empire,” has opened a theater house in Rogers Park.
The McKay theater company has moved into 1439 West Jarvis Avenue, a storefront in a building owned by billionaire Jennifer Pritzker. It’s been home for years to Side Project theater, which is transitioning into a traveling theater company.
“I’m really happy to be in Rogers Park. It’s the most diverse part of the city and that’s what our theater company’s about,” he says. Along with theater productions, the theater offer drama and screen-writing classes, which McKay hopes Amazon might like.
Amazon is streaming a show McKay has written and stars in. “Written Off” is about two recently out-of-work journalists from the fictional Chicago Truth newspaper. Co-writer is Margie Shabazz of Blue Light Productions in Chicago.
The show has been selected for the New York Television Festival’s Independent Pilot Competition in October.
McKay leased the theater-company location with Chicago-area performer Tony Lawry. The two are friends going back to their days studying theater at Eastern Michigan University.
McKay went on to perform on The Second City’s main stage from 1997 to 2003 before landing roles on TV–including on “Detroit 1-8-7,” “Sports Action Team” and “E.R.” He was a mainstay on commercials, the most notable being a funny one for American Airlines. McKay played a sports agent traveling the world trying to get a team to sign his socially awkward basketball playing client. Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, was featured in it, too.
But McKay’s biggest break came when he signed on to play Bunkie on “Empire.” The character was murdered and McKay says he’s often recognized around town by people still upset at his character’s untimely death.
“Everything changed after ‘Empire’,” he adds, ticking off film roles that followed.
That the show filmed in Chicago also was a big plus for McKay, 46. He lives in Evanston with his wife, Rebecca McKay, also an actress, and their blended family of six children. “It’s great to be here and creating good work here,” he says.