“Empire” is more than just a TV show, it’s that Wednesday night relief after a terrible Tuesday. We’ve fallen in love with the diabolical plot, charming characters and Cookie’s animal print wardrobe. The Lee Daniels’ production continues to break it’s own record each week and with the finale approaching, we’re itching and scratching for any details we can get.
We caught up with Bryshere Gray, the fiery 21-year-old star who plays Hakeem. He opened up about landing the once in a lifetime role, how his real mom felt about him making out with Naomi Campbell, the off-set dinners that build the Lyons’ chemistry and the acting advice Taraji gave him. Oh, did we mention we broke the news to him that his co-star Jussie Smollett landed a record deal with Columbia.
Find out his reaction when you get into the interview, below:
HelloBeautiful: How did you land the role of Hakeem?
Bryshere Gray: I got the notice from my manager, he got the audition. He felt as thought I would be the best person to do it. So I did it, Lee Daniels loved it. He flew me to LA. I did like eight or nine process auditions with Terrence and Taraji and it was intense. We were sweating, it was a hot room. We were going back and forth. Taraji was slaying the scene and Terrence was giving me emotion. I almost cried in that room because the scenes were real emotional scenes and I was going to that place.
HB: How is it working with Taraji on set?
BG: Working with Taraji is amazing — she’s everything you would expect her to be. She gives me so much advice on acting. We’ll be doing scenes and she’ll be like, ‘Baby, if you did it this way, that will turn out the way you want it to turn out.’ I love getting advice from Terrence and Taraji. We also hang out off set and she’ll cook for me, Jussie and Gabby. We’re like a real family.
HB: We didn’t know Taraji could sing. Are those her vocals on the “You’re So Beautiful” track or did she get any assistance?
BG: She couldn’t wait to sing and I was right there rooting her on because she’s amazing at what she does.
HB: What’s your reaction to Terrence Howard’s emotional scenes?
BG: If me and Terrence are in a scene and it’s so serious, he’ll be like ‘Boy and I told you…’ and then it’ll cut and I’ll be like ‘You always mad.’ [Laughs] Taraji will always add something and it’s just funny. He’s a real phenomenal actor. We need actors like Terrence and Taraji.
HB: What talk did you have to give yourself before the kissing scene with Naomi Campbell?
BG: As a man, that’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Naomi Campbell is beautiful. I couldn’t see nobody else playing Camila but Naomi. She’s perfect for Camila. We hang out on set and off set. She’s a beautiful person.
HB: What did your real mom think of you kissing an older woman?
BG: I was actually watching it with my mom and she closed her eyes. It took her a couple of weeks to understand why Hakeem did the things he did. Then she understood, he really has mommy issues and it stemmed from Cookie being locked up for 17 years so he’s get his security from Camila.
HB: Where’s Hakeem’s girlfriend Tiana?
BG: The relationship stands in a fault! Hakeem is all in his emotions. He’s mad because she got caught with a sidepiece and he has a sidepiece. He’s just being a little brat and not being a man and owning up to his actions. So…he’s not talking to her. Tiana will be back.
HB: Hakeem can come across as arrogant, are you that way in real life?
BG: No. [Laughs] I’m so the opposite. I’ll take a picture with you. I’ll have a conversation with you. I’m not like Hakeem at all. Of course, the swag is still there though.
HB: How has your experience with woman and fans changed been since “Empire” became so big?
BG: I’ve been getting chased. I’ve been getting pictures taken in elevators when I’m just trying to go to my room. The wildest thing that happened was having a girl waiting for me in my hotel room and the season ain’t over yet.
HB: How do you feel about Jussie landing a record deal with Columbia?
BG: Jussie got signed? You telling me the world can hear an amazing voice and get to know a beautiful person? I’m hype. I’m right there with him. Columbia is family. Me and Columbia are family.
Are you a rapper or actor at heart?
I’m an actor at heart.
There was a tweet that was going around, with you clarifying your sexual. Was that a real tweet?
That was a fake page. I only have one page on Twitter.
Catch “Empire” tonight on FOX.