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Passion passion passion! I think any actor needs to be able to be above all a passionate person who is able to show the audience why Desdemona fell for him. Of course, Othello is passionate not just in love, but he is a character of extremes - compassion, passion, love, friendship, anger and jealousy. He lives life to the full and feels emotions fully. Therefore any actor would need to be able to demonstrate these abilities.
Othello as a character has a great presence. He needs to be played by a commanding actor who has the physical build to be convincing as a great warrior. His voice needs to be bewitching as it was this that was instrumental in winning over Desdemona, and indeed the Duke and senate, that his case is an honorable one.
Othello also needs to have arrogance too, and appear to be less able to read social cues than military instruction. He could appear mildly awkward around women with the exception of his wife (this would primarily be Emilia, but could include extras).
Laurence Fishburne in the 1995 film version of Othello had an appropriate physique and captured some of the arrogance of the character. Anthony Hopkins voice was engaging and hypnotic in the 1981 version, but the makeup and costume were wholly inappropriate.
Othello needs to be played by a black actor with real presence. Samuel L. Jackson certainly has the presence. Terrence Howard may be able to rise to the challenge of the role too.
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