Starring in All American has been a rewarding experience for Bre-Z, an actress and musician, who is not just playing a Crenshaw teen rapper on screen, but also gets to share her own musical talent through Coop, a role that she says was a perfect fit for her. With the fourth episode of season 3 airing on Monday (Feb. 8), Coop will return with more original music, a new record titled Family Over Everything.
HM: You are so gifted. Is acting, music and arts in general something you had around you growing up?
Bre-Z: It’s just something I picked up in my early teenage years. I don’t have anyone in my family who is, I guess you could say, a professional entertainer but I had family members singing in the choir and stuff like that.
HM: And when it comes to acting, how did that come about?
Bre-Z: I was a barber first. I was cutting hair one time and someone came to me and recommended that I go on an audition based on this character doing music. I was just like ‘okay’.
Honestly, didn’t know anything about that world of television or film, but I did it, I got the role and truly fell in love with it. And I was like ‘wow I could do this”. I’ve been doing it and learning as I go along and watching other professionals. I had the pleasure of working with so many big actors of our time, and just working across from them or alongside them made me feel like I was where I was supposed to be.
HM: Any great advice from the big actors you worked with?
Bre-Z: Terrence Howard [Bre-Z’s co-star on ‘Empire’] would always tell me just to trust myself and trust my natural instinct. And I think that’s something I carry with me every day. And I think it’s one of the best [pieces of] advice.
HM: At this point of your life what comes first music or acting and why?
Bre-Z: Music. It’s there, it’s not going anywhere. I work on it daily. It’s hard to put it on number 1 with so much filming going on but when filming is done, it’s number 1.
HM: What are you working on currently? Are you making music, are you filming?
Bre-Z: I’m actually doing both. I am finishing up my album, just tying loose ends on that and we are in production for season 3 [of All American]. So I am filming and working on my music whatever time I can get.
HM: In the first two seasons of the show, your character was focused on her friendships, relationships, and family. What Coop’s journey will be like in season 3?
Bre-Z: She’s growing. They are just coming back from summer break, of course, she was on tour. The tour was very successful, so I think moving forward we’ll just have to see more growth from there. We’ll have to see what’s next. I can’t tell you what’s next. We’ll have to see… But they dig into what happened over the summer and the tour, and how did it really go. All of us have to finish our senior year in High School; a lot of decisions to be made going into young adulthood.
HM: You now have written and co-written several records for All American, including the latest one, Family Over Everything. What is the song about and why now?
Bre-Z: It’s speaking to our community in supporting one another, holding each over down with everything that may go on we continue to stick together. We have the desire to stick together and that was the direction for the record. The title Family Over Everything is self-explanatory; and I say family in terms of our community, our peers, not just our immediate family – everything that helps us grow and helps us be who we are, everything that supports us. That’s what I mean in terms of family.
HM: When it comes to creating music that Coop performs on the show, how much creative freedom do you get?
Bre-Z: I have a very good relationship with my showrunner and my music supervisor and they trust me with the music that’s being created for Coop. So, I just talk to them, get their notes, get specifics if needed, and just go in the studio and knock it out.
HM: Out of all the music you’ve written and co-written for the show, which is your favorite?
Bre-Z: I think they are all very meaningful, so I don’t even know if I have a favorite. Because they all meant something special to the character and to the show, and they were all able to be relative to the storyline.
HM: Can we expect any exciting musical collaborations down the road on the show and from you personally?
Bre-Z: I’m working on an album. It’s just gonna create the separation between what people see me do on television and what Bre-Z really loves to do. My music is more laid back, more chill. Not a lot of yelling and screaming, things like that. It’s good vibes. I’m putting that together now. And, again, as I said, this is me creating that separation cause I wasn’t able to that while constantly creating music for television. It’s hard to separate who I actually am as an artist, a lot of people don’t know that. So it’s almost like a re-introduction.
Catch All American on Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on the CW.
‘Harlem’ Star Shoniqua Shandai Talks 3 Pillars of Success
Shoniqua Shandai is fully immersed in the study of her success. Through her determination, Shandai found a way to reach the precipice of her goals. In an exclusive interview with Hollywood Melanin, Shandai shared an in-depth level of self-perception. She provided personal definitions of courage, confidence, and self-belief.
The world is waking up to the power that Shandai holds. In the new hit Amazon series Harlem, the New York native brings Angie’s character to life. Many would look at her and say she is struggling, playing into the “starving artist” archetype, but if one looks closer, Angie’s only struggle is the battle with the conformity of the world.
Series creator Tracy Oliver worked with Meagan Good, Grace Byers, Jerrie Johnson, alongside Shandai, to share a raw narrative of Black women who have the goal of living out their version of happiness.
Angie embodies liberty, a freeform display of what it means to be dedicated to pursuing a dream. Off-screen, Shandai knows the level of commitment it takes to create a world that fits a personal vision. It takes a custom-made level of courage, confidence, and self-belief. It takes a personal standard of hustle.
Conquering the fear of being one’s true self ignites the labor in building confidence. Shandai admitted the process was in layers. “I found the confidence to be myself in having tried to be everyone else and it not working,” she continued, “I might as well show up as me–as vividly, as boldly, as audaciously as possible. You have to live for yourself.”
I found the confidence to be myself in having tried to be everyone else and it not working
Courage is defined as “the ability to do something that frightens one.” To be one’s true self is nearly impossible without courage. It’s the secret ingredient to personal success. Before every interview, the repeated chorus from loved ones is “to be yourself,” but that takes courage. Shandai opened up and shared her process.
“Courage came from having to build confidence – I am who I am.” The actor and singer continued to explain that her support from her mother, adjacent to her self-determination fueled her confidence.
Courage came from having to build confidence
To be unstoppable, there has to be a strong foundation of self-belief. The approval of others is fickle. Self-belief might be the only thread left to hang on to when no one else is willing to share blind faith in chasing dreams.
The Amazon series star considered the solution to working when the motivation isn’t there, “I am incredibly future-oriented. Being so future-oriented has saved my life.” Shandai said. She admitted to reverting back, and taking baby steps in order to prepare for bigger strides. Each day, she pulled herself closer into the vision.
Shandai said she is most happy when she is cooking success in multiple pots. Her next debut is coming in through audible wavelengths. As a singer and songwriter, she will be looking for a deeper level of self through music.
Her first single, with visuals directed by her co-star Good, is called, Something About You. Nothing has been officially released yet, but Shandai is ready for this part of herself to rise to the surface.
Through her personal definition of courage, confidence, and self belief, Shandai always finds the strength to keep extending her reach, to keep answering the calling on her life. Stay connected with Shandai on Instagram and Twitter. Bingewatch Harlem on Amazon Prime.
Robin Givens Talks Guest-starring on ABC’s Queens
Givens’ episode titled “Let the Past Be the Past” will air on Tuesday, February 8
Robin Givens is set to appear on the all-new episode of ABC’s music drama Queens. We sat down with the Ambitions star to discuss her joining the show and take a deeper dive into her pivotal scenes.
In Queens, we get a first-hand look at the dynasty built by the hip-hop quartet of women – Naomi (Brandy), Brianna (Eve), Valeria (Nadine Velazquez), and Jil (Naturi Naughton). Viewers meet the group on the verge of claiming their place at the top of the music game for the second time.
The upcoming episode titled ‘Let the Past Be the Past’ will feature Givens as Eric’s ex-wife, who will pay him an unexpected visit. Once the manager of the girl group, Eric will have to confront his former spouse to help save the future of Nasty Girl Records.
Last week ET exclusively released the first look images of Givens as Robin and her intense sit-down with Brandy’s Naomi – the woman who might’ve caused the breakup of her and Eric’s marriage. See the photos below.
The official ABC synopsis reads, “Queens follows a fractured girl group living in the shadows of their once prominent hip-hop dynasty. After their popularity skyrocketed with the success of their chart-topping single, “Nasty Girl,” they were once regarded as one of the greatest girl groups of their generation. However, the group was plagued by internal conflict and jealousy despite critical and commercial success. Estranged and out of touch, the four women, now in their 40s, reunite for a chance to recapture their fame and regain the swagger they had in the ’90s when they were legends in the hip-hop world.”
Watch Queens on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
Eris Baker Talks ‘This Is Us’ Final Chapter and Pressures of The Industry
‘This Is Us’ has been making its viewers laugh and cry for six years now. NBC’s hit series and talented cast collected many nods and awards season after season, including several Golden Globes and Primetime Emmys. With the family drama on its sixth and final season, we sat down with one of the show’s stars, Eris Baker, who plays Tess Pearson, Randall (Sterling K. Brown), and Beth’s (Susan Kelechi Watson) oldest biological daughter.
Eris grew up on the show, and she calls her castmates and crew, ‘family’. She took on her biggest television role thus far at the age of 10. Now, at 16, Eris is ready to enter a new chapter of her life and career.
The oldest sister of 4 in real life, Eris never shied away from responsibility. So when the opportunity to audition for This Is Us presented itself, she gladly went after it. Convinced that she did not get the part, Eris later received the best news on Christmas – the role was hers. She admits that she did not realize how big this was back then and how massive it would become.
Eris says she never felt overwhelmed by her immediate professional surroundings as a child actor. Working on the set of This Is Us has always been comfortable and fun. However, Eris told HM, the pressures mounted from the demands that came with being in the industry – “You need a manager, you need an agent, you need a PR, you need to post this, you need to post that, you need to be this image for other people, and I don’t even know if I’m that image for myself,” she explained. A lot comes with being in the public eye, and the young talent says she is learning to navigate that.
Watch the rising star talk about working with her co-stars, reveal some of the pressures she faced growing up in the industry, and reflect on what lies ahead in her professional future.
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