“They say, ‘give the people what they want,’ and I think that the people wanted this,” divulges Brian Tyree Henry during our recent webcam chat (watch above) when asked about the breakout success of his new show “Atlanta.” Created by Donald Glover, this FX original follows the adventures of Earnest “Earn” Marks (Glover), an ambitious college dropout hoping to turn his life around by managing the rap career of his cousin, Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles (Henry). “I think that there are a lot of stories that weren’t really told that reflected a lot of us,” adds Henry, “and we really wanted to have a show that did.”
Henry describes Alfred as, “a petty champion,” and yet someone who, “has one of the biggest hearts of anybody that I’ve ever seen.” Born and raised in Atlanta, “he’s been a person that’s gone around most of his life with all these different stigmas and stereotypes put on him, and all he is is just a dude that wants to get up and make a living and survive, whatever that means.” He is also, “incredibly genuine,” and, “has no filter where he can lie, per say. Those friends are important, I think.”
Part of the show’s success, Henry believes, comes from how relatable the characters and situations are. “We’ve been these types ourselves,” he explains. We’ve all asked, “What is it to make it? How do we get by with these things in the world that are constantly telling us, ‘No,’ and these dreams are not approachable? What happens, and what are the shenanigans that happen while we’re on our way to our dreams?”
A graduate of the Yale School of Drama, Henry was part of the original cast of the Tony-winning Broadway musical “The Book of Mormon” before moving into television, where he snagged bit parts in such shows as “Boardwalk Empire,” “The Knick,” and “Vice Principals.” Check out our full interview above for more about his breakout role in “Atlanta.”
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