HARLEM — Former Mayor David Dinkins will play himself in a stage production about the life of Nelson Mandela this weekend.
Dinkins, who played Judge Chet Baker in an episode of "Law & Order" last month, was a friend of the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize winner and welcomed him to New York shortly after the South Africa leader was released from a 27-year prison term.
“I think it’s an honor, truly an honor to be associated with Nelson Mandela in any way,” Dinkins said. “There may be others who are great fans of his, but I don’t think you’ll find anyone who is a greater fan of his than I am.”
Dinkins, who described his role in the play as “me speaking about him and why he’s so great,” has been rehearsing with actor Lloyd Goodman and Director John Ruiz.
“He’s going to be great on Friday night,” Ruiz said of Dinkins. “How do you coach a man like David Dinkins to be himself? He’s himself, he’s great. There is very little notation that I can give him.”
The play, "Mandela," will be performed Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the National Black Theater. On the last night, the audience will be able to meet-and-greet with the cast, Ruiz added.
Ruiz first performed a short version of the play last year as a tribute to Mandela. When he started to expand the play, he wanted to include his visit to New York and reached out the Dinkins’ office.
“All of a sudden I got a call back and he was excited about the project because he held this man in such high esteem,” Ruiz said.
Dinkins called Ruiz into his office, which has photos of the former mayor and Mandela all over the wall, and shared stories about Mandela’s time in New York City, Ruiz said.
Dinkins, who played a judge in a "Law and Order" episode “Spousal Privilege" that aired Nov. 19, said he is not interested in pursuing an acting career. He became involved in this project to pay tribute to a man he respected.
“I think everybody young and old of all ethnic background should be aware of the life of this magnificent man, Nelson Mandela,” he said.