Tim Curry is returning to the project that kick-started his legendary career.
Talking to PEOPLE about The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Curry says he has been pleased to be “coming back to the project, which I hold very dear. It’s very exciting. It will be very interesting because it’s very close to me.”
Curry — who has spent the last several years recovering from 2013 stroke — gave his blessing for Orange Is the New Black star Laverne Cox to take over the role of Dr. Frank-N-Furter, which Curry originated in the 1975 cult-favorite film, and now he’s assuming the role of the Criminologist Narrator.
“[For] Tim to step into a completely new character but to still be part of this movie, it’s just so special,” says costar Ryan McCartan, who plays leading man Brad.
Reeve Carney (a.k.a. Riff Raff) calls Curry, 70, “such a wonderful guy, such a sweet spirit and such an incredible talent and to be that humble having done as much as he’s done, it’s always nice to see that.”
For Lou Adler, who executive-produced the original film and has returned as an EP on Fox’s revamp, Curry’s participation was a major turning point in winning over the original Rocky‘s passionate fanbase. “When Tim Curry decided that he would sign on as the narrator, that validation helped us with the fans,” he tells PEOPLE.
And few people are bigger fans of Curry than his costars.
Annaleigh Ashford, who is stepping into Columbia’s tap shoes, says that “being in his presence has been a reminder of the goals we have as artists,” and McCartan adds that Curry is “a wonderful man, he’s exceptionally bright. He has a lot of stories and he’s very generous for sharing them with us, it’s just been remarkable to spend a little bit of time with him.”
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Staz Nair, who plays Rocky in the new production, pays tribute to the legacy of his on-screen creator by saying, “I mean, who doesn’t know about Tim Curry’s iconic performance as Frank?”
Cox, who broke ground in 2014 as the first transgender actress to earn an Emmy nomination, certainly does. She reveals that Curry’s performance marked a pivotal moment in her self-perception and acceptance.
“When I saw Tim Curry for the first time in that film, I was sort of in a gender-nonconforming space. I had a shaved head and was starting to wear makeup, and I was exploring my gender more — and here was this character who was just so unapologetically themselves, and it gave me permission to not just dream it but to be it,” recalls Cox, 32.
Coming full circle during Rocky Horror rehearsals, she remembers an early get-together when the cast “sang all the songs from the show, and Tim was there. I sang every single song from the show in front of Tim Curry, who originated these songs — these songs were written for him.”
She admits, “That was so intimidating, but he was so unbelievably supportive and encouraging, and he’s so funny.”
“He made this movie iconic,” she adds, “and to be a part of that legacy … I have to pinch myself.”
The Rocky Horror Picture Show airs Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.