Brian Tyree Henry - Making "Atlanta" an Authentically Black Show

December 7, 2016 - Brian Tyree Henry 12/07/2016 Views: 2,169

Actor Brian Tyree Henry talks about combining absurd moments with genuine African-American experiences on his show "Atlanta." (4:51)

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Please welcomeBrian Tyree Henry.

(cheers and applause)

Good to have you.Good to have you.

You are such a good actorthat I sing Paper Boi

-like it's a real artist.-Oh, wow. Yeah, 'cause...

Like, for real. I walk around,♪ Paper Boi, Paper Boi

It should be the new intro, man.

♪ All about that paper, boy

You should make thatthe new intro to the show.

I should, man. I should.For those who don't know you,

I mean, for a lot of people,the first time

they see Brian on screen

is playing a rapper in Atlanta.

-Mm-hmm.-But you are a man

who has traveledthrough multiple worlds.

-You know, you studied at Yale.-Mm-hmm. Yeah.

You know, you were well-versedin the world of drama.

You're a smart man.You are...

I think it actually takesa lot of smarts

to play a characterlike Paper Boi.

You know, it's really funny,because when I got this part,

I was, like, um, "I knowI can play this part, man.

"I know who Alfred is.I went to college in Atlanta.

I still have Alfredsin my life."

And, uh,it doesn't really change

-how people view mein the streets anyway. -Yeah.

Like, it's amazing, like,if I put on a Polo

and a gold chain,and then I go up to them

speaking the King's English,they're like, "Wait, wait, wait,

"hold it, wait, wait, wait,aren't you supposed to be

like this,shouldn't you be this way?"

I'm like, "No, it's just that

that's what yousometimes put on me."

So I kind of likealways wearing lids, and then,

like, throwing on somethingdifferent and being, like--

'cause I like to throw offpeople's expectations

of what they think I am.

That's really what Atlanta is.

For peoplewho haven't watched it,

when you start watching Atlanta,

you think that this is justa show about hip-hop, you know.

-Yeah. -I remember when Atlanta was being previewed,

you know, when they were doing,uh, the previous fall,

the agents and stuff,someone was in the room,

and they were like, "Oh,is that that new black show?"

-Yeah. -Person said,"It's the black show."

It was talked aboutas Donald Glover's "black show."

-Right.-And... it actually is.

Yeah. I was like,you're actually right this time.

-Yeah.-It's a black-ass show.

And you're welcome!Like, about time!

-Like, for once, you know?-Yeah, but this is...

this is what I find fascinating.

-You correct me if I'm wrong.-Okay. Go ahead.

But it feels like,in its specificity,

-Yeah.-in its blackness,

it appeals to everybody.

Well, here's the thing.It's, like, we are in a time

that we have to let people knowthat you don't know everything

about all these peoplethat you think you know.

It's so easy to put these labels

and-and all thesemicroaggressions on us

when you have no idea,or have walked in our shoes,

and wouldn't want to walk in our shoes.

You know what I mean?So it's, like,

why not do this show that isjust in this universe of Atlanta

where we give you these storiesof these characters

but also, like, throwthese absurdities in there.

Like, yeah, in our universethere's an invisible car.

How about that?Like, we're just gonna...

like, how about that?

Like, how aboutour Justin Bieber is black?

Like, I remember thinking,I was like,

we are gonna get so much hate mail,

like, people are gonna beso pissed.

But it was like, oh, actually,people are very accepting

and understanding of, like,you know what,

this is what we wanted,this is what we needed.

And to hear that from people,that's the thing

that trips me out, when they'relike, "We needed this show,

like, we really needed this,"and I'm like,

okay, well, we'vestill got stories for days,

-you know, we can keep going.-Well, I'll tell you why

I felt like it touched my heart,was because...

it was a story where, for once,

it felt like it was a black show

that wasn't being...watered down

-Right. Right.-to be a black show.

It wasn't a show that went, hey,we're gonna water this down,

a watered down,acceptable version of blackness

-Right. -to get white viewersto appreciate this.

And honestly,what I found in that was,

everyone that watches it,black or white,

goes like, "This is real!"There is a realness to the show

-that you can feel.-Yeah.

And, I mean, like,even when you're playing Alfred.

What do you-what do you feelyou share in common with Alfred?

'Cause I feel like you-you'realmost one and the same

-in different ways.-Y-Yeah.

I've slapped a lot of peoplewith cash, lately, you know.

I mean, like, it's like,give me your... you know?

But, uh...

I mean, because the thing is,we all are Alfred.

We all, at some point in ourlives, have been this guy,

where people have put theselabels on us.

Where all we want to dois wake up, and, like, you know,

-go through life followingour dreams. -Yeah.

And I just really alwayswant Alfred to be represented,

'cause it's so easyto label him as a thug,

-and label him as unintelligent,-Yeah.

and label him as just beinga rabble-rouser,

and-- I just said rabble-rouser.

But... but... yeah,I didn't want that.

I wanted him to have so manymore layers, because usually

the Alfreds of the world do. AndI-and I know what that's like.

I, Brian, know what that's like,walking in the world.

I have not watched a TV showthat can handle more themes in

one episode than Atlanta does.-Oh, man, Trev, thank you.

-We watch every single episode.-Thank you, man.

-We're excited for everythingyou do. -(cheering, applause)

-Thank you for beingon the show. -Any time.

Good luck in all your ventures.You can check out Atlanta

on the FXNOW app as well ason iTunes and Amazon.

Brian Tyree Henry, everybody.