On Wednesday, October 5 – The Knockturnal caught up with Empire star Serayah McNeill for a little girl chat before she headed to set.
The actress/singer/dancer, who plays pop star Tiana Brown on the FOX television series, says her character will be heating things up a bit this season, causing a little drama and making Hakeem (Bryshere Gray) a little sick.
“We definitely get to see a new love interest for Tiana,” she told The Knockturnal. “We get to see that build and grow and do its thing,” speaking of the kissing-action we saw brewing on last week’s episode of Empire with Romeo Miller (of Growing Up Hip Hop).
“…Also, there’s new music, we get to see the interaction between Tiana and a new singer on the show, Nessa. There’s a lot going on, much like Empire. Always.”
Serayah also speaks on what being around all the great talent on the Empire set is like every day, independent film role in “Burning Sands”; then on the flipside, not wanting to get up for work some days, her new music, downtime with friends, and more.
Has acting always been your dream growing up as a little girl?
Yes. Growing up I always wanted to be on like Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network … Hannah Montana for an episode. I’m just saying. That was definitely a dream.
I remember when the Camp Rock came out, and Camp Rock was Disney, singing, movies, sequel. There was the sequel of High School Musical. I’m like, “Oh, my God. It’s so cool. They get to sing and act and dance and all of this.” It’s so crazy because I thought there was a time limit because I was always watching Disney Channel.
Young kids like me.
When I, obviously, graduated high school and started my first year in college and I got Empire. I’m like, “There’s definitely no time limit on when you’re suppose to do what you’re suppose to do.” There just so happens that I get to be on a show, where I can act, sing, and dance. It’s amazing to be able do what I’ve always wanted to do.
Would you say you share similarities with your Empire character Tiana?
Yes, I would say that our similarities are definitely with the music, and that’s where it’s a lot of me taps in; obviously, because I’m a recording artist. I feel like, for Tiana, a lot of things are like, so I get her. I understand where she’s coming from. I wouldn’t always handle every situation like her, but I definitely understand her. I feel like that’s how I can really tap into Tiana.
Can you speak on being around all that great talent that comes on the set every week? What is being in that vicinity all the time like, does it drive you at all as an actress, a singer, entertainer overall?
Yeah, definitely. Especially as an actor. I feel like performing and dancing, I’ve always been very comfortable with. That’s something that I can relate to more easily, but with acting I have grown so much. I study it all the time. I have a coach and stuff like that. As a new actor, I think that being around such seasoned actors, or actors that went to school for it, mind you I was going to school for acting, but I got Empire, so I kind of had to switch into just going to coaching.
I feel like doing this allows, the Niko’s and Andre’s, they have definitely the real stuff. Bryshere, Trai and Grace. They went to school for acting and they have a different background on it. Being around them and doing certain things definitely, definitely, definitely, I’m 100% influenced, encouraged and inspired.
What have you been up to outside of Empire, as far as the acting? Can we expect anything with music?
Yeah. Over the summer, I did an independent film called Burning Sands. It’s about HBCU College of Virginia. I love it because it’s the whole storyline, like in the 90s. A lot of true storylines, where it’s all racism and Black Power and Black Unity and all that kind of stuff. Interracial racism and stuff like that. It’s great. We’re college kids and it’s so different from Tiana. I loved it. I really got to act as a normal person and I was into that. It was great.
Music, I definitely am working on my next tape right now. Hopefully, I’ll have some features coming out, too. I’m really excited about that. Then, of course, every Wednesday, Empire is on.
What’s an average day in your life like?
Right now, I have loads of phoners – interviews. Then, at 1:30, I go to work, set. It’s so funny because my friend asked me that the other day, “Why do you call that going to work?” I was like, “Why do you not call it work? It’s definitely work.”
I think they think it’s a glamorous thing. I’m like, “No. We’re actually working.” No. I got to work at 1:30. Then, depending on how long our scene takes. It depends on the scene. She usually has really long scenes because she’s only performing. I’ll be there, probably, until 9 tonight. Then get back and rest for the next day of work. It’s definitely much like that. If I have a day off of work, I’m usually still working. I’ll go to the studio, work on my next tape or go out to the dance studio and work on some choreography, for the song I’m going to release.
Is there a day that you just don’t want to get up and go to work?
So many days. Oh God.
I have two managers, but one of my managers is my mom. I just let everything out to her. “I don’t want to do this job.” She’s like, “Okay. Well get it out, but this is what you want to do so suck it up.” And then she’s like, “Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. Okay, but you know this is what you’re doing.” I’m like, “Okay. Yeah, that’s true.” I have to have that little bit of pressure because if not, I’m like, “I just want to be in bed today and like not be on Instagram and post anything or all this stuff.” Yeah. I totally have those days.
On a weekend, on a leisure day, when you just want to hang out, what’s hanging out look like?
Oh my gosh. For me, I love hanging out with friends. Movies, bowling, or a movie night, here. Me and my friends will get together and cook. Ta’Rhonda (Ta’Rhonda Jones, Porsha in Empire) is a great cooke. We always scurry over to her house. Sometimes I’ll see what my cast-mates are up to or just my personal friends. Or, I really love to go to yoga – I go crazy. I feel like it’s very centering – it’s a restarter. It’s definitely like my fun days. Yeah.
With another drama-filled week ahead, catch Serayah on Empire this Wednesday at 10PM on FOX.