Obscure beginnings, an unprecedented dream for the future, rigorous training, dedication, and a career heavily rooted in great theatre; it’s the stuff that A-List leading men are made of. Just ask some of our favorites: Denzel Washington, Kevin Spacey, and Sam Jackson, to name a few.
As Editor-in-Chief of The Lady Loves Couture and a diehard New Edition fan, I had the chance to connect with my dear friend, actor Bryan Terrell Clark, who plays famed music producer Terry Lewis in the film, which airs tonight on BET, as well as George Washington in Broadway’s hottest play, Hamilton.
Bryan Terrell Clark chats exclusively with TLLC to share details about his work history and what it’s like working on two iconic projects.
THE LADY LOVES COUTURE: Tell us a little bit about Bryan Terrell Clark? You’ve got a lot going on right now as you’ve recently been cast in the role of George Washington in the Broadway smash hit play, Hamilton, and you also play the role of famed music producer Terry Lewis in the BET New Edition movie. But you’ve had some other really notable success in your career, prior to now. Please share…
BRYAN TERRELL CLARK: Yeah, I’ve been blessed. I’ve been working as an actor consistently since 2006. Right out of grad school, I was cast in Fences opposite Laurence Fishburne and Angela Basset. That experience was life-changing. And some years later, my first Broadway show, I originated the role of Marvin Gaye in Motown the Musical. So it’s been an amazing occupational journey.
TLLC: What was the experience like working on the iconic New Edition film?
BTC: I joined the cast fairly late. I was in LA for a friend’s wedding and got the call to come in and audition. Two days later, I was on set. We had a lot of fun. The guys already had a bond, they were family and it felt like I was shooting a film at a family gathering. It was dope. Not to mention the original members of New Edition were always on set. Legends walking around showing the young ones how it’s done. It felt like a “passing the torch” moment.
TLLC: In contrast, what has the experience been like working on Broadway’s number one show? How are the two worlds different? How are they the same?
BTC: Hamilton is like nothing I’ve ever done before. The excellence, artistry, and precision it takes to tell this story elevates both the artist telling it and the audience member experiencing it. It’s history, it’s rap, it’s music, it’s dance, and it’s a cast that is predominately minorities performing. It highlights the richness of our history and the richness of our talents.
The two worlds are very different. Broadway is like being shot out of a cannon. The show starts and it doesn’t stop. You hop on the train for three hours and take the journey. Once that down beat starts, the show is on you!
Film is different. There is a lot of stop and go, long days toiling over smaller moments. And then the final performance that the word sees is after editing and music is added. Both are collaborative in their culmination. I’ve heard many actors try to explain the difference. I would say theater is about strength, passion, and discipline. Film is about endurance and subtly. Both are about truth.
TLLC: You come from very humble beginnings, yet you’ve graduated from Yale School of Drama and have worked with countless A List celebrities. What are some principles you live by that inform both your work and keeping your eyes on the long term goal of achieving success?
BTC: I’m like a sponge; a student of life! So I learn from everyone and everything. I remember asking Angela Bassett what is the best advice she would give a young actor. She said, “Make sure your income is more than your out-go.”
I also had a great movement teacher, Wesley Fata, who said “How a person does some things is how they do all things.” It’s a reminder to be consistent in all areas of my life.
TLLC: Why do you think Hamilton has resonated so much with audiences?
BTC: I think it resonates because many people can take ownership over the story, because if feels like it’s “ours.” It’s about an immigrant founding father of the United States. There is really nothing new under the sun, and with our current political climate, the history of the story has a lot of relevance to what’s happening now. Stylistically, it feels current because the music and soundscape is contemporary in its approach. At the same time, there is a sense that the show is still classic in its form. There is something for everyone in the show.
TLLC: What’s been your favorite Hamilton moment so far?
BTC: My favorite moments keep changing every day. I play George Washington, and one time I was pulling out the sword at the bottom of a number, but it got caught on my jacket. I had just started the show not even a few days before. It was a great moment because it was both hilarious and embarrassing. It was a reminder that it’s okay to laugh at yourself. The moment passes and you have to be present for the next.
Also, this show brings out the best in athletes and entertainers. I loved spotting Rihanna from the stage and then the moment of, “stay focused B” that I had to tell myself. Or meeting Colin Kaepernick, and talking with him about why he chose to kneel during the National Anthem. Theater is all about community and it really does bring us together.
TLLC: What’s next on the horizon for BTC, the rising star?
BTC: I’ve been living a dream as an actor. I feel really blessed. I want to continue that dream, but I’ve already started some new dreams.
I have a passion for Arts Education for at-risk youth, as well an interest in fashion. I’ve started a lifestyle brand called in-DEFINED. It’s all about redefining labels placed on our lives. It’s all about defining yourself from within. The proceeds from the sales go to Arts Education for at-risk youth. We launch in 2017.