Young actor Brett Gray is big believer in many things, but chief among them is making sure he is comfortable. If he’s getting on a flight from LA to New York, he’s always making sure he’s wearing the right amount of layers. When he’s on a red carpet, he makes sure he’s in a style that makes him feel he’s back home in Philadelphia. And when it comes to his career, he’s found a show that feels more like family than work.
Gray stars as Jamal in the new Netflix dramedy “On My Block” a story of four friends growing up in South Central, Los Angeles. The show has already met critical success and has been renewed for a second season. With his own EP set to release this summer, Gray is just starting to find his stride in the business, and he’s trying to do it with as much comfort as possible.
“I’m still young, so red carpet events can be a little overwhelming,” Gray said. “There’s so many people whom you’ve admired for a long time, or just met or maybe you need to meet them for something new. The most important thing I try to do is take it easy.”
It’s a bit easier to be comfortable while on a show like “On My Block”, an opportunity Gray considers to be a blessing. He was first drawn to the show after reading about the character Jamal, a neurotic teen trying his best to avoid playing on the football team.
It was a relief for Gray to play a young African-American character he doesn’t often see portrayed. “Often I think young men of color are shown on TV to have it all together and show this maturity, and higher stakes living,” Gray said. “I was interested to kind of play the opposition to all that, something that’s fresh and really speaks to me.”
The show has only been out since March 16th, but Gray and the rest of the cast have revealed in the positive early response. All the main actors communicate through a group text, sharing the well wishes, good reviews and fan art they’ve already received.
When he went through the first table reads, Gray knew the show had the potential to be great. Not only was the writing sharp, but he found himself completely surrounded by actors and actresses of color for the first time ever. “It’s almost like working with friends, almost like working with a collective of friends who just happen to make a show together,” Gray said. “And that goes for the cast, the crew and all the writers as well.”
Beyond television, Gray has an EP titled “Easy Days” releasing August 7th and single "Old Thing Back" June 1st. Hoping to combine an R&B sound from the late ‘90s with the sound of present music, his biggest goal in music has been to challenge himself.While he has been in theater and sung throughout his career, Gray did not consider a music career until recently. “About a year ago I was in the studio with a friend who is a musician and I just hopped on one of her songs real quick. She said I should do my own music, and it scared the hell out of me,” Gray said. “But if it’s something scary, then it is something worth doing.”
Gray’s belief in comfort might be most evident in his fashion, where he’s not afraid to rock sweatpants or joggers in public. His life has become more hectic with every year, and being able to control how he feels in his clothes is of utmost importance.
“My everyday look is definitely street style. I like to be as comfortable as possible, just because I am literally always traveling,” Gray said. “I am never in one spot for more than a week, and that can wear one you. ”While currently based in New York, Gray is often making trips to Los Angeles whether it be for a show or special event. He said the fashion of people in both locations have influenced him and elevated his style.
But while he is living on one of the coasts, Gray still feels most comfortable when he is back in his hometown of Philadelphia. It’s the place where he first found his love for acting, and the place where he could first test himself.
“I think Philly is home base for me,” Gray said. “It is where I come back after all my traveling. I get so much inspiration from my hometown, whether it is in my music, my acting or whatever I do. Underneath it all, you can tell I’m a Philly kid.”
Photographer: Dave Krugman @dave.krugman
Stylist: A Gentleman’s Journi / www.agjourni.com @journi_7
Groomer: Brandie Hopstein at Opus Beauty using Dior Homme @brandiebeauty
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