Empire marks the television debut for rising star Bryshere Gray. The Philadelphia rapper, also known as Yazz the Greatest, was handpicked by show creator Lee Daniels to play the Lyon's family youngest musical prodigy Hakeem.
"I was doing my thing in Philly and Lee called my manager, my mom Charlie Mack," he recalled. "After that I flew to LA, I was in auditions with Taraji and Terrence and now I'm here today."
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As ETonline found out, the casting was more than just a stroke of genius, it was a serendipitous opportunity for Gray, an accomplished musician who has performed at Budweiser's 2013 "Made In America" festival and opened for 2 Chainz and Fabolous.
"It's challenging playing a character that is so unpredictable," he said about his role as wild child Hakeem. "Young child, without guidance, and I'm [also] playing a great artist-- so I'm playing two roles."
For his first acting gig ever, the 21 year old has had quite the master class on set going toe-to-toe with co-stars Taraji P. Henson (Cookie) and Terrence Howard (Lucious). "They're phenomenal actors," he said. "I grew up watching those two and now I'm working with them. It's a dream come true."
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If acting alongside a pair of Oscar-nominated actors wasn't enough, Gray is also part of one of Empire's juiciest storylines in which his character hooks up with a woman twice his age -- played by none other than the world-famous supermodel Naomi Campbell. And while most 21-year-olds would be intimidated to shoot a love scene with the 44-year-old stunner, Gray treated it like any other scene. "I didn't freak out," he admitted. "I kept it cool."
The ratings for the Fox breakout hit has climbed each week since the show's premiere, a success that Gray said is just starting to sink in.
"Im just happy to be involved with such a hit series," he said. "[But] the fact that the viewers are climbing each week that just shows how the story is resonating with people's lives and people are really inspired by the story."
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Watch our full interview above to find out who Gray would like invite on as guest stars on Empire. Hint: one of them is a two-time Oscar winning actor and the other is a multi-Grammy winning music mogul. (We’re keeping our fingers crossed for both!)
Empire airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on Fox.