Bryshere Y. Gray, of FOX‘s hit drama-series Empire is wrapping up these press runs, hitting up red carpets, film festivals and premieres; all the while, mastering his lines, taking in his daily workouts in the gym, prepping for upcoming projects, and giving quick phone interviews with the Knockturnal.
After hitting the scene in 2013 as rapper Yazz the Greatest, playing a few high-profile gigs like Jay Z‘s Made in America Festival to later landing his breakout acting-debut role as Hakeem Lyon on FOX‘s Empire, Bryshere has bloomed from budding star to superstar status; and at his going rate, there’s no stopping him now.
Tackling multiple spectrums of the act-mosphere (acting-atmosphere) already, he has gone from the spoiled, and entitled Hakeem on Empire to playing R&B music legend Michael Bivins in the new BET biopic the New Edition Story. And it doesn’t stop there.
Fresh off the Empire campaigning and Urbanworld Film Festival trails, Bryshere Y. Gray was gracious enough to hop on a call to briefly discuss all the happenings in his life right now with a new season of Empire, how life changes for Hakeem coming from last season; and other exciting projects he has underway to his day-to-day; who’s his favorite right now, Yazz or Bryshere, and more.
How does it feel to have accomplished all that you have in the time that you have, having worked with so many legendary people? It’s just so amazing, how’s it feel?
It’s amazing. I look back and like, “What the hell happened?” The fact like we just did 3 seasons of the show, we got a movie out, working on another movie called ‘Sprinter‘ where I play Usain Bolt‘s arch-nemesis and that comes out next year. It’s just amazing, it’s just like I feel blessed. I want to keep it going, I just want to improve … It’s good.
Originally, you have played roles where you’re an artist and you being an artist yourself, can you tell me a little bit about the challenges faced in playing that type of role (Sprinter), as Usain’s antogonist?
Oh yes. I’m in training now. I’ve got to train my legs because he’s a track runner so I have to train my legs. We have to run long distance as sprinters, they run long distance, and I’ve got get that all down pat. I think he’s a Nigerian person, of Nigerian ethnicity so I’ve got to practice that stuff too. It’s just locking down, talking to Usain Bolt. I’ve been talking to him for a couple of days and trying to lock into the character.
Jumping into this season of ‘Empire’, can you tell us a little bit about that emotion we saw in Hakeem in Episode 1? What does Hakeem become this season? What’s he getting into?
He has a daughter named Bella and he’s trying to show his dad that he can be a better father than him because he didn’t really have the guidance from him. Teaching him the proper way on how to be a man. He had to learn it his own. From the bad parenting he’s been through, he’s trying to make sure his daughter never goes through that.
Playing the role as a dad now, explain the process you might go though to draw on some of those emotions.
I tap into when my niece was born. She wasn’t so small as Bella but, … I just tap in to how I treat my niece, just like my daughter. I tap in to that a lot, but it’s like going to work. When you go to work, you got the babies there is like, fronting, you like, “I got my babies there.” It’s actually two twins that look alike. They trade then out when they get too tired or … They’ll usually trade them out. It’s fun, it’s like real fatherhood … because I don’t know how to hold a baby so small. It’s like, literally watching me how to learn … I’m really learning how to hold a baby on camera.
How about the relationship between Hakeem and his brothers? Can you speak on that for this season?
This season the relationship between the brothers is conflict. There’s a lot going on. He likes this girl and she likes his brother. Hakeem is the jealous type, so he does things out of anger. You have to see season three, him and his brothers clashed, but it’s a family. Brothers always fight.
What’s the normal day in your life like on and off the set, getting ready for your roles?
I have a 24/7 trainer that I workout with. We’re actually going to the gym now. We work out every morning, on set, after set. Just staying healthy, eating right, studying. It’s working about 5 days a week, 20 hours, for like 9 months straight. I do a lot of touring and stuff like that too that I try to squeeze in and then on top of that, auditions and stuff like that. It’s a lot of work, you just got to eat right, get sleep.
Who’s your favorite? Yazz or Bryshere?
I think both. I really like both of them. They’re the same person, we are the same person. It’s just, Yazz is my musical artist name.
What else is happening on the actor side?
New Edition comes out in January. That was amazing. It took us three months to film that. I literally stayed on mic for two week, went to them 50 hallways, or to the playground stops. I ate where he ate when he was in high school, just to tap in to the character. We went through boot camp to learn dance moves for a month or two, with Stroll and Brooke, Stroll and Brooke.
That sounds cool. Such an honor, right?
It was such an honor to play a legend. New Edition, people look at them an icons and they shouldn’t be portrayed in the lowest light. I feel like actors that want to play them characters should look at it like that. I just wanted to make sure New Edition went out in the best light.
The breakout star is making his dreams come through in all kinds of ways; with a drama packed season of Empire, the New Edition Story in 2017, and upcoming projects like working with Usain Bolt on movie Sprinter, Bryshere also just released two singles on iTunes, with more to come.