Bryshere Gray: From Almost Homeless To Hit Shows
Bryshere Y. Gray, also known by the stage name Yazz The Greatest or simply Yazz, is probably best known by his character “Hakeem Lyon” on the hit show, Empire with Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard. Hakeem is the spoiled son of a millionaire music mogul who seems to get in trouble when he doesn’t get his way. Besides he and his character Hakeem’s love for music, that’s where the similarities end. Gray grew up far from the privileged, wealthy family lifestyle he portrays on TV.
Born in Germantown and raised in West Philadelphia, Gray recently and opened up to a group of high school students, “I was homeless, and I’m on the biggest show in the world now. I’m living proof that you all can do whatever you all want to do.”
Even though he wrote his first song at age nine, he really got interested in rapping at age 16. “I was working at Pizza Hut,” Gray explains to Vibe.com. “I was just tired. I was like ‘Is this life?’ I just graduated and I started rhyming and really fell in love with it. When I did my first performance, I was like ‘This is what I really want to do.’ People loved what I did on stage. I used my first Pizza Hut check to pay for my music video and I promoted it everywhere on Facebook at crazy hours. (Laughs) I was writing raps at my job and I got fired. After I got fired, I just really committed to it,” he admitted.
“I was doing a lot of shows all over my city and performing out on the street. I just wanted people to hear me. I was just so eager and ambitious,” admits Gray.
“If I wrote a song that night, I was going to perform it to the world and that’s what I did. So I met my manager, Charlie Mack, who is like Will Smith’s best friend, and he gave me the audition. I did a video audition for Lee Daniels and he loved it and sent me to L.A. I auditioned [there] with Taraji and Terrence, cause they were doing their auditions for Lee, too. We got to do it together,” he added.
“My acting abilities are not that developed yet…TV and film will make you grow fast. Things I’m learning now I was taught in high school but wasn’t interested in it then but it’s catching my interest now…like learning scripts. The script is given to you the day of and you have to remember your lines fast, there’s no time to mess up. You gotta wake up mentally prepare yourself you gotta be ready for that.”
The young star has also learned a lot from his Empire co-stars.
“I learned how to treat a woman from Taraji,” confesses Gray. “She teaches me things on life experiences, cooks for me, Jussie and Gaby—we hang out outside of set and it’s like a real family. Terrence, on the other hand, is like…