Datus Puryear discovered a love for musical theater during his senior year at Newark High School. He’d long been involved in the choir program, and planned to major in Music Education in college, but his turn as the Beast in Beauty and the Beast gave him a passion for acting that persists nearly 10 years later.
“A friend of mine suggested that I audition for it,” Puryear said. “Right after that is when I started to figure out, what is this acting thing? I felt like it kind of capped off my time at Newark High.”
Puryear is a 2007 graduate of Newark High School. He was involved with basketball and football, but his biggest passion was choir, singing with a barbershop quartet and the swing choir in high school.
Puryear credited his teachers at then-Lincoln Middle School and NHS for instilling the passion in him. He named Kathy Orner, now retired, and Kim and Mike Wigglesworth as being major influences in his life.
“If it wasn’t for (them), I know I wouldn’t be the person that I am,” he said. “Those people put something in me that I can’t quite define. They’re like family to me.”
After graduating, Puryear attended Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio, as a music education major. He switched to theater because he grew to like acting so much.
He has turned his passion into a career. Puryear has acted in musicals in Cincinnati and New York City, as well as travelling shows. He’s a model who has appeared in a number of TV and print commercials.
“I’ve been very, very blessed to be a full-time actor here in New York City since I graduated college,” he said. “I never looked at myself as a model. If you want to make a living, you have to kind of have your hand in all these pots.”
Most recently, Puryear has appeared in print ads for Pepsi, Budweiser and Samsung. He’s also been on Good Morning America modeling clothing. Recently, he auditioned for a part in the FX series Atlanta, and hopes to break into television acting.
“That’s the next direction that I’m going toward,” Puryear said. “It’s so humbling to be able to do what you love to do with any kind of consistency in this city.”
Puryear is also recently married and is supporting his wife as she prepares to make her Broadway debut next year. The couple has had a couple of chances to work together, including in a Burlington Coat Factory ad.
While he doesn’t make it to Newark as often as he would like, Puryear said he had the chance to tour the renovated high school recently and looks forward to taking in a game at White Field when he’s able to.
He fondly remembers his time in high school, and credits many of his experiences with preparing him for his varied career — including his first trip out of the country that the choir took during his senior year.
“When you get to travel, you get to see other places, it broadens your perspective,” he said.