With Bryan Terrell Clark being a cast member of Thoughts of a Colored Man at the John Golden Theatre on Broadway, he worked alongside his now-husband Devario Simmons, who was the show’s costumer designer, and they married earlier this year. Thoughts of a Colored Man made history by being the first play on Broadway to have the director, writer and actors all be men of colour, with Bryan playing Happiness. Bryan previously played George Washington in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical Hamilton at Richard Rodgers Theatre, reprising his role at the end of 2019, and he was in the original Broadway cast of Motown the Musical as Marvin Gaye. This year, Bryan could be seen in the Disney+ film Sneakerella playing the stepfather Trey, with which he attended the film’s premiere, and he worked on an episode of Inventing Anna as Brian. Amongst Bryan’s other TV roles, he played Pastor Logan in Series 2 of Snowpiercer, Jason Comeaux in Cherish the Day, and he joined the cast in Series 4 of Queen Sugar as Leo St. Clair. Alongside acting, Bryan is a songwriter and a background vocalist for artists including Ne-Yo and Michael Bublé, he co-founded inDEFINED and has a production company Artists Park Productions, and he is a public speaker for corporate events, colleges and universities. Currently, Bryan is filming an undisclosed series for Hulu. Talking to us, Bryan told us about his time in Thoughts of a Colored Man, performing as George Washington in Hamilton and playing Trey in Sneakerella.
Most recently on stage, you starred in Thoughts of a Colored Man at the John Golden Theatre on Broadway, can you tell us about the play and what was it like to be part of?
Thoughts of a Colored Man made history. We were the first play on Broadway to have the director, writer and actors all be men of colour. It was an honour to make history on Broadway in a show that allowed me to be my most authentic self. Playing the character Happiness every night on stage quite literally made me HAPPY.
Was there anything that drew you to the show and how was it seeing the audience response to the run?
I met the playwright of the show, Keenan Scott II, at an Ugly Christmas Sweater party years before. He came up to me and said, “Bryan, one day I’m going to write something and you are going to be in it”. And boom! Here we are. It was meant to be. I’m stopped on the street to this day by fans expressing how much the show impacted them. It is incredibly rewarding to be a part of a project that brings visibility, representation and healing to my community.
What did you enjoy most about being in the cast and how did you prepare for your role?
Our director, Steven Broadnax, created a rehearsal atmosphere that required all of us to be our authentic selves. Steven created a safe space for all of us as performers and black men to be vulnerable. That was all the preparation we needed. He wanted us to be real and on honest when on the stage… and that’s what we were.
You worked alongside your now-husband Devario Simmons, who was costume designer for the play, how was this and what was it like getting married earlier this year through the pandemic?
What I love most about our relationship is that we are a great team! Working with Devario professionally is as easy as every other part of our marriage. We make a great team. Getting married during the pandemic presented its challenges, but the most important thing was having our family there. Our families were all present and made our wedding day feel like a dream.
You played George Washington in the Broadway cast of Hamilton at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, what was the character like to play and how was it performing in a Lin-Manuel Miranda musical?
George Washington is a dream role. The character is introduced with a powerhouse rap song Right Hand Man and exits with a soaring gospel number One Last Time. Washington is epic in Hamilton! Lin inspires me and so many others as he creates work that blends all his interests. He has an authentic voice and point of view, and it’s translated in his work. Add to that, people love it. It’s my goal as a creator and storyteller to create work that does the same.
At the end of 2019, you reprised your role of George Washington, what was it like returning to the show and what are some of your stand-out highlights from your time in the production?
I believe any place you work is only as fun as the people you work with. Hamilton is like a family. We are in the trenches together doing the show eight times a week and we have so much fun doing it. The highlight is working with such an amazing group of artists.
In 2013, you were in the original Broadway cast of Motown the Musical, how did you find the experience performing the music and portraying Marvin Gaye?
Art imitates life in many ways. Trayvon Martin was killed around the time I started the show. My closest cousin was also killed around that time. Each night being on the stage and singing What’s Going On was empowering. I had a way to channel my grief, questions and ultimately find purpose in my art. Playing Marvin Gaye helped me do that.
Do you have any favourite memories from performing as Marvin Gaye on Broadway that you can tell us about?
Michelle Obama came to see the show and sent me a personal note backstage. That was pretty awesome.
What was Trey like to play in the 2022 Disney+ film Sneakerella and how was it working with the rest of the cast?
It was great! Some of my favourite films are Disney films. It was a dream come true to play the iconic role of the Stepmother from Cinderella, reimagined as a Stepfather in grief. The cast is phenomenal and super sweet… all of them. We became a family while shooting the film.
What was it like on set of a Disney+ production and how was it seeing the completed film for the first time and attending the film’s premiere?
The film premiere of Sneakerella was one of the first that I had gone to in person since the pandemic. Disney rolled out all the stops. We were on a pier outside in New York City and it was my first time seeing myself on a screen that large. My inner child was leaping with joy.
Also, this year, you could be seen in an episode of Inventing Anna as Brian, can you tell us about this?
This role was a surprise because I didn’t think I would be able to do it. I had a recurring role on a television show being shot in Vancouver, BC. I got word that Shonda Rhimes really wanted me to be a part of the project, so they worked around my schedule to accommodate me. I was humbled and honoured to be a part of it.
Also, I had the pleasure of working with the legendary Laverne Cox. This show was a cool highlight of my year.
How was your time playing Pastor Logan in Series 2 of Snowpiercer and how was it working on a dystopian thriller?
Snowpiercer allowed me to learn how to box. I love how that what I get to do as an artist informs and enriches my life. Snowpiercer was a great example of that.
How would you describe your character Jason Comeaux in Cherish the Day and what was it like filming your episode?
I told Ava Duverney, the creator of the show, “You only cast me as villains”. We had a great laugh about it. Then I got the offer to play this therapist. He was a good guy. I’m thankful Ava heard me and gave me a shot at one of the good ones.
What did you know about the TV series Queen Sugar before booking the role of Leo St. Clair and how was it joining the cast in Series 4?
I was a huge fan of the show and have friends who were cast as series regulars. I believe Queen Sugar is an important example of domestic dramas and content we create in the zeitgeist for Black people. I was thankful to be a part of it.
Over your acting career so far, you have worked on a number of other projects on both stage and screen including Fences, Immediate Family, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist and Empire, can you tell us about some of them?
What I will say is that I think training and being a master of your craft as an actor allows you to do a variety of work. I think it’s very easy to get stuck doing one thing. This is especially true when you become famous for doing one thing. But all the shows you’ve listed are very different in scope, medium, and character. I’m grateful that I’m able to do a variety of things in my journey as an artist.
What do you enjoy most about being a songwriter and how is it working with artists such as Ne-Yo and Michael Bublé?
As a songwriter, I express my storytelling in a different way. It’s all connected at the core, but songwriting for me is more emotional and poetic. It’s finding the right images and the right sounds to express how I feel and ultimately tell the story I want to tell. I have done background vocals for many artists in the industry and singing background and supporting an artist is a different skill set all together. This is the work I did with Ne-Yo and Michael, among others.
Alongside performing, you co-founded inDEFINED and you have a production company Artists Park Productions, can you say about these?
Both are extensions of my purpose. InDEFINED began as a philanthropic clothing brand that supported young people utilising their voices for positive change. Ultimately, our mission is to support young people defining themselves from within, on their own terms. Artists Park Productions is my production company, and we are currently creating stories that support the same narrative.
What would you say are some of your career highlights over the years as a performer so far?
A lot of the highlights I have answered/mentioned in questions previous.
I will say the one thing that hasn’t been discussed is my love for using my platform and my art for positive social change and empowering people. I’m also a public speaker at corporate events, colleges, and universities. The public speaking tour allows me to use my voice and experiences to share great stories that uplifts communities.
Where does your love of acting come from and how did you start in the industry?
When I asked my mother the first time, I said I wanted to be an actor, she said it was before I could talk. I would run up to the television and see my favourite shows and just bounce. I believe every child is born with passions and proclivities that should be guided and nurtured. I think I was always a storyteller. I got my start in church singing in the choir, and doing Christmas and Easter plays.
Do you have any favourite films, TV and theatre shows to watch and how do you like to spend your time away from your career?
I love a variety of shows. The Wiz, Into the Woods, and all things Marvel.
I like to spend time away from my career travelling and spending time with my husband.
What upcoming projects do you have that you can tell us about?
I am currently shooting a series for Hulu. More to come on that later this year.
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