The Oprah Winfrey Show once proclaimed him its “Sexiest Caribbean Man,” but Trinidadian born model turned thespian Paul Pryce is now earning accolades of a distinctly different kind- as a critically acclaimed Shakespearean actor.

Pryce is earning rave reviews for his stirring  portrayal  in  the leading role of  Shakespeare’s Pericles, produced by the renowned Elm Shakespeare  Company of Connecticut , and running  outdoors at   Edgerton Park ,  New Haven,  until August 31.

It is the latest professional triumph for the Yale Drama School alumnus, who traded the runways of New York and Paris for the floorboards of the Off Broadway stage within just a few years of his stunning international debut on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1999.

Back then, Pryce was a working model in his native country of Trinidad and Tobago, and signed to the prestigious Coco Velvet Model Agency, when word arrived that the 1999 season premiere of  The Oprah Show would take place in the Bahamas, and include a competition for the title of “Sexiest Caribbean Man.”

Pryce was selected as his island’s representative from an elite list of Trinidad’s best known male models and journeyed to the world famous Atlantis Resort  for the finals.

After a week of competition, a judging panel including Oprah herself along with male supermodel Tyson Beckford, selected Pryce as the winner from a field of over a dozen of the Caribbean’s best male models.

“It was my first foray into the world of entertainment on a truly international level and the entire experience was fun but somewhat surreal,” Pryce recalls.

“I mean – The Oprah Winfrey Show! Just being there was unbelievable, and then I couldn’t believe it when I won. My prizes included a Ralph Lauren wardrobe, a spread in Vibe Magazine and, most fatefully, a trip to New York.”

It was while modeling in New York that Pryce  elected to pursue his dream of acting, signing up for classes at the   renowned HB Studios ,which eventually lead to his acceptance into  one of the most famous acting conservatories in the world- The Yale School of Drama – where he completed his Master of Fine Arts degree in acting.

His leading role in Pericles is an impressive addition to a stellar resume which already includes Off Broadway appearances in Harry The Hunk on His Way Out at The Cherry Lane Theater and Pecong – opposite Tony Award winner Lilias White -at The National Black Theater, as well as Angels in America, Othello (as Othello), Cymbeline and Twelfth Night, all at the Yale School of Drama, and Hamlet, opposite Oscar nominated actor Paul Giamatti at the Yale Repertory Theater.

Pericles itself is one of Shakespeare’s lesser known works and, until recent years, was rarely performed by established Shakespearean companies.

It follows the life and adventures of Pericles, The Prince of Tyre, over several decades as he experiences persecution, love, marriage, fatherhood and betrayal – events which take him on an  extended odyssey to several  major cities of the ancient world.

The  setting of  the  current production has been changed  to the  Colonial West Indies, and with its massive colorful set, swashbuckling fight scenes, cast of  pirates and  fishermen and its  distinctly  Caribbean music, there is a definite  feel  of ‘Pirates of The Caribbean ‘ in the proceedings.

It’s part of what Pryce loves about the project.

“The timelessness of Shakespeare’s words and his stories is very evident in Pericles, and transposing it to the Caribbean further highlights that point. For me it’s like returning home. I look back at  how this all started, with the Oprah Show years ago in the Bahamas, and all I’ve done  since- Off Broadway  and at Yale- and now,  here I am playing the role of a lifetime,  right back in the islands . It feels like I’ve come full circle. And it’s wonderful.”

Pericles is directed by James Andreassi and plays at Edgerton Park, 75 Cliff Street in New Haven, Tuesday through Sunday until Sunday August 31.