Atlanta star Brian Tyree Henry: I refuse to be pigeonholed
The actor found fame as a rapper on the series created by Donald Glover.
Atlanta star Brian Tyree Henry has said he refuses to be pigeonholed by racist stereotypes, adding: “It is very easy for me to put on a polo and a gold chain and all of a sudden I’m labelled as a thug.”
The actor, who found fame as rapper Paper Boi in the series created by Donald Glover, said it has been important to him to show his character is complex.
His first scene in the show, which has won Glover a Golden Globe and two Emmys, shows Paper Boi, whose real name is Alfred Miles, getting out of a car and shooting someone.
He told the Press Association: “There are all kinds of things that led him to get to where he is.
“He has heart, he’s somebody’s cousin, somebody’s best friend, somebody’s confidante, and I really wanted to focus on those things because it is very easy for me to put on a polo and a gold chain and all of a sudden I’m labelled as a thug, I’m labelled as a threat, and I just didn’t want to be all of who Alfred was.”
Henry said he refuses to acknowledge stereotype, saying: “I don’t really pay attention to them, I am very aware of them but I refuse to go around being labelled by them.”
He continued: “That is other people’s problem, it’s not my problem.
“Acting is my job, it’s my craft, it’s what I love to do, and I refuse to be pigeonholed by any kind of standards that people hold up, to say that if you re going to play this, if you want to be this way and look this way, then you have to play that.
“Or if you are growing to grow up this way then you have to be part of that.
“F**k that, we are in a time that representation is incredibly important and diversity is incredibly important.
“It’s always been important, but it’s all about the storyteller now, it’s really about how we come out unapologetically and lay these stories out in front of you, and you can take from the buffet or you can sit your ass down somewhere else and I love that.”
Discussing the timing of the success of the show, which topped many critics’ lists of the best series on television when it debuted in 2016, Henry said: “I think there are no accidents.
“This happened when it was supposed to happen and I’m really glad that I was a part of this kind of renaissance, because people are always like ‘you’re having a moment’ and I’m like ‘I’m not have a moment, we are having a movement’.
“You charge in and knock down every wall – to say that we can’t tell these stories like that.
“The show is so quintessentially black but at the same time the experiences of being a black person around the world can resonate with anyone and we all know what its like to be overlooked, we all know what injustice looks like, we all know what it feels like to be the underdog.”
The second series of Atlanta, Atlanta Robbin’ Season, starts on June 17 at 10pm on FOX.