On My Block and Star Trek: Prodigy star Brett Gray talked with Shadow and Act’s Managing Editorr Trey Mangum his incredible career trajectory on the latest episode of Shadow and Act’s Opening Act podcast.
Gray talked about how he has been acting since he was seven years old and trained at various theatrical programs and schools in his hometown of Philadelphia and New York.
His big break to television came when he was cast in the chorus as “singer/dancer number 55” on Rise, a series about a fine arts high school. But it was when he had to come up with his character name that things really started falling into place.
“At the beginning of the show, we all had little nametags so we could learn each other’s names. And they wanted us to come up with character names because their idea was all the singers and dancers would become students later in the high school,” he said.
“My student’s name was Jamal. I lie to you not…If you ask anyone who was in the chorus with me, they will all tell you that we manifested this,” he said, referencing how his On My Block character’s name is also Jamal.
“So after Rise…it was like a snowball effect,” he said. “I did the pilot of Rise…and right after that, did [a] musical for the executive producer who got me the show, and right from there, I got a self-tape. [I was told] there’s this comedy they’re making over at Netflix with four lead teenagers and they’re all going to be people of color. And I was like, ‘Woah, that’s really unusual for four leads to be all people of color and also all supposed to be teenagers.'”
Even though he had never attempted a comedic role before, he sent off his audition tape and got back good news.
“Three days later, they were like, ‘Hey could you come to L.A. tomorrow so we could do this chemistry read?'” he said. “I had never been to L.A. before this point, so in my mind, I was like, I’m going to get this point. I had read The Alchemist in those three days because I was like, this is the time for the manifestation to happen.”
Of course, as we now know, On My Block has been one of Netflix’s big success stories.
You can hear more of Gray’s experiences in Hollywood on the Opening Act podcast, embedded below.