Native Memphian and Clarence Day Scholar Griffin Rone ’19 will be coming to television screens across the nation with his role in the upcoming Country Music Television (CMT) mini-series, The Million Dollar Quartet. An adaptation of the popular musical by the same name, the series will take a look at the likes of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and other marquee artists of the Sun Records era. Rone will play the role of Bill Black, Elvis’ gritty bass player.
The series is being filmed and promoted as CMT’s foray into the growing demand for high quality TV shows from big-name cable networks. Organized by Think Factory Media, The Million Dollar Quartet will be an 8-episode mini-series and is set to air in November.
Rone heard that auditions would be held in Memphis by chance, from a friend’s dad who encouraged him to attend. Rone is already a weathered musician and actor within Memphis; his bands Small and Melinda regularly gig around the city, and he worked extensively with the Brothers on Stage ensemble at Christian Brothers High School in Memphis. Experienced in music and acting and with a head of hair that brings to mind the year 1956, Rone was a natural candidate for the role of Bill Black, a bassist known as much for his rock ‘n roller personality as for the rock ‘n roll music he helped pioneer.
His first audition was held at Humes High School, Elvis’ alma mater. “I spent the whole month of February just waiting by the phone,” Rone recalls, “but at long last, they emailed me some lines and I went over them with my dad and my old acting director, and went in.” After a lengthy waiting period and a series of follow-up auditions and interviews, Rone was offered the part of Black.
The Million Dollar Quartet will boost more than just CMT’s television ratings: the production is boosting the Memphis economy. Most of the show is being filmed in the city, and painstaking care is being taken to portray an authentic representation of Memphis in the 1950s. “They make a good effort at making the city look like the ‘50s. They’re repainting houses, locating vintage cars, and just generally pumping a bunch of money into the economy.” Other Memphis actors have also been recruited, notably Will Tucker of the Will Tucker Group, a regular fixture at B.B. King’s Blues Club, who will play alongside Rone as Elvis’ guitarist Scotty Moore.
Rone is excited about the opportunity, but not without apprehension: “This is going to be kind of weird. I have to memorize lines and get them right in front of a bunch of people who, if I mess up, I’m wasting their time. It’s really stressful.” He is scheduled to appear in four episodes, and filming is under way. On getting a taste of the professional acting world, Rone says he is enjoying the free Red Bull and catered food, and the good company and good people who are his coworkers.
By Kenneth Piper '17