Born in England to Jamaican parents, Hyatt emigrated to the
United States with her mother and siblings. She studied acting at Howard
University and later at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and it
was soon after graduate school and only a handful of one-off roles on TV that
she landed on The Wire
As Brianna, Hyatt played a mother caring for a son who she
insists turn himself in and accept a lengthy prison sentence, only to be killed
behind bars. She soon finds herself at the helm of a crumbling family empire,
caught in the crosshairs of obligations and relationships. She appeared on 12
episodes over the course of four seasons. The role was minor compared to those
played by Idris Elba, Dominic West or Michael K. Williams, but certainly not
insignificant or forgettable to fans.
“I could have not ever imagined that The Wire
would play such a pivotal role in my life,” Hyatt says, looking
back on the part. “That job has stayed with me throughout my adult life and
career. It’s come up so many times.” Her parts on The Wire
and The West Wing
which briefly overlapped on TV from 2003 to 2004, have, in many ways, led her
on a journey to Snowfall
and are now
coming full circle.
MORE: 12 Actors You Didn't Know Were on 'The West Wing'
Director Dan Attias, who helmed several of Hyatt’s episodes
on The Wire
and Ray Donovan
, also directs the FX series’ third episode. Seeing him
was like seeing an old
friend. “We embrace each other and have our moment, ‘It’s you again,’” she
says, adding that they’ve now gotten to the point where they understand each
other without speaking.
Meanwhile, The West Wing
executive producer Thomas Schlamme, affectionately called Tommy by many of his former stars, serves as executive producer on Snowfall
and was in the casting room when Hyatt auditioned. While Schlamme left the NBC drama after its fourth season and he and Hyatt never met or worked together on the series, Hyatt has great reverence for the TV producer. That fact turned out to be a lucky coincidence for her as she auditioned with this “curly-haired white man,” who was not immediately familiar to her. “Truthfully, when I’m auditioning I’m not paying attention to the details of who’s involved,” she admits. It wasn’t until much later in the process that she learned it had been Schlamme. “Had I known the infamous Tommy Schlamme was the man guiding me in the room, I would have freaked out and probably stuttered my whole way through the audition.”