Brian Tyree Henry has already hit it big in Tinseltown with his Emmy-nominated role on FX’s hit series, Atlanta but he’s about to go full-on superstar.
The actor has several big roles in films (including Steve McQueen‘s Widows) that haven’t been released and we have a feeling he’s the one Hollywood will be buzzing about for years to come. During a recent interview with GQ, the North Carolina native opened up about life, loss, and his road to fame.
Here are 5 fascinating facts we learned about our new favorite movie star:
You better get his name right.
Henry spoke about why his father, a veteran who did three tours in Vietnam, chose his name.
“He was a black man born in 1940 in the South, so nobody was inspiring him to do anything…He had me in the ’80s, so he looked up and he’s like, ‘Oh shit, my son could do anything he wants to. He’s still black, though,’” he said. “I think that’s why they named me Brian: the whitest name possible. Which people still misspell, which pisses me off. I used to tell people, ‘If you spell my name with a fucking y, you’re racist.’ ”
He’s a Morehouse man.
“It was hard for me to blend in at Morehouse…You have to have two suits, you have to cut your hair a certain length—and I was like, Fu*k outta here with that! Like, I thought that college was the place where you find out who you are and what you want to be and you bring your individuality to that. I didn’t feel at the time that I could do that there,” he said. “Now, as I look back, I’m like, Oh, I see what they were doing. They’re trying to set you up in this way to handle how society views a black man, not how black men view each other.” A beat. “Also I was 18, and I smoked a lot of weed.”
Acting wasn’t his first choice.
Henry revealed that before he became an actor, he had his sights set on a career in security like his three older sisters. “Watch the monitors, work for ATF. I mean, I’ve worked for HUD, IRS. All security in D.C. is the same,” he explained. “It’s just a black person with a gun working for a contractor.”
He got his acting chops at Yale.
Brian Tyree Henry took the advice of a friend and auditioned for Yale’s School of Drama. It was there that he befriended playwright, Tarell Alvin McCraney.
“I did every play he ever wrote, man…That was my ally,” he said. Once he graduated from the prestigious school’s drama program, he cut his teeth in theater, working on Shakespeare in the Park and originating a role in The Book of Mormon on Broadway.