Gary Gary Gary Gary

Gentlemen's Corner: Gary Gray Talks Playing a Gay Man and Working Alongside Mo'Nique in 'Blackbird'

Gary Gary
Whether you recognize his face from beloved sitcom (The Cosby ShowEven Stevens) or his voice from your favorite childhood cartoons (The Fairly Oddparents, Rocket Power), there is no doubt that Gary LeRoi Gray has made his mark in show biz. The twenty seven year old former child star has been keeping busy lately; flexing off more of his serious acting chops in the upcoming film Blackbird, alongside Mo'Nique, Isaiah Washington, and newcomer Julian Walker. 
 
The film, which explores the subject of homosexuality within the African American community and the church, has received rave reviews during its premiere screening at film festivals last month. We caught up with Gary to discuss his brave new role.
— Terry Carter Jr.
 
All Photo Credits: Kate sZatmari

 Gary Gary

VIBEVixen: Let's talk about your new film Blackbird. What drew you to this project?

Gary Gary: I previously worked with the director Patrik Ian Polk and that played a huge part of why I chose to be apart of it because I know he's such a fearless director and he doesn't do anything not worth doing. When he called and told me about the project,  I was immediately interested.The character was one that I really wanted to play because I never really done anything with that many layers. Especially growing up doing Disney and a lot of Nickelodeon shows, it never really allowed me to go that far into my craft. So I definitely jumped at the chance to do that. And loved doing it.
You play a gay character in the movie. Tell us about him.
 
Efrem is the name of the character. He's multi-layered. Very troubled. He's the kind of character that, even though they have a certain bravado on the surface, there's just so much going on and possibly wrong beneath the surface. He is the best friend to the main character, Randy and he really is the encourager [sic] of all things bad. He wants complete and utter anarchy and he just wants everybody to be free. That's good and bad for the story. Just a very troubled character, but at his core his intentions are good.
 
What was it like working alongside the Academy Award winning actress Mo'Nique and thespian veteran Isaiah Washington?
 
It was fantastic. Mo'Nique is such a sweetheart. Just amazing to work with and a fantastic actress. The same goes for Mr. Washington as well. I have studied his work before working on the project and he's just such a phenomenal human being, the things that he does in regards to charity is astounding. On set, he's the complete opposite of what I thought he would be. I'm thinking he's just this grand actor who would be so serious on set, but he's actually a joker and he's a character. It was just a lot fun being on set and working with him and Mo'Nique. Not many people get to work with those kinda names in one project.
What advice would you give to any young African American males out there struggling with their sexuality and acceptance from their family and friends?
My advice would be if you are upset or worried about coming out and actually letting people know what you consider to be the real you, just know that anyone who is not accepting of that doesn't deserve you and doesn't deserve their presence in your life. It's tough and it's hard to see who's there for you, but in the end you're just going to be a better person for it. To live in a shadow or in fear of letting the world know who the real you is, is a lot worse than the alternative. Just face fear and be fearless. That's really what the movie Blackbird is about.

Gary Gary

What type of feedback have you gotten from the LGBT community?
 
I get tons of positive feedback. I don't think I've gotten one negative thing said about Efrem or Brandon. I was scared to death the first time I played a gay character. It's different because these roles have a community behind it and it's so much more responsibility behind it. Patrik was definitely an integral part in making sure I did the role very true to form and I thank him for that.
The film definitely deals with serious topics, but of course if you're working on a set with Mo'Nique there had to be some funny moments.
I remember one of the last moments in the movie, there's a scene where most of the main characters are all eating at the table. We were on set sitting there and the food is getting cold and stale and Ms. Mo'Nique kept saying "Can you give these babies some warm food please? Can you please refill this orange juice? Go 'head, put these pancakes in the microwave sugar" [Laughs] She was still taking care of everyone like a mom. It was great to have someone there who is not quote unquote Hollywood on set. She was very much still a mom to all of us.
You've also played another gay character in the film version of the LOGO show Noah's Arc. Do you ever fear being type cast in films?
I pick roles that are interesting characters. I pick roles that I want to be able to tell that characters' story. If it happens to be seven gay characters in a row, then so be it. I'm not worried about that at all.
How do you think you've managed to stay out of trouble and not go down the wrong path, as many child stars do?
 
All credit goes to my mom. I grew up in the south side of Chicago. I never really touched the Hollywood scene until very late in my life. With her, it never was about money. That trickled down to me. Where you have most child stars who are so in tune with how much money they are making and where that money is going, that's how you get a sixteen year old driving a Bentley and wrecking them and living on their own with their managers. Not to say my mom hid my money, but I didn't need that money at the time. Thus my upbringing was very normal.
What would you say is the most rewarding experience about being an actor?
 
My goal is to just give that feeling to as many people as I can. Those goosebumps. That moment in the movie where you just tense up, and that release you get when your favorite actor has a crazy, long drawn out monologue and it just hits home. Or a crying scene between two lovers on scene. Those moments, I know how they make me feel and I know that if I can feel those feelings, then so can other people.
I'm sure people still recognize you from Beyoncé's 2003 Pepsi commercial. 
That is still to date my most memorable commercial. It is also my longest shoot on set. [Laughs] That was a twenty one hour shoot, but I loved every minute of it. She's fantastic. She's amazing. She was just a joy to work with. We had a lot of downtime on set since the set was really elaborate. She waited very patiently and was ready to go, ready to work. And I was obsessed with Destiny's Child at the time and I was of course really anxious to meet her. She fulfilled every aspect of just being a joy to work with on set.

Gary Gary

VV: For all of our vixens wondering, are you single?
 
GG: I am not single, actually. Just entered a new relationship. Sorry ladies.
What's the most romantic thing you've ever done for a special lady in your life?
 
I'm very much a romantic type. I'm that guy that's like, I'll buy stuff and have flowers at home just because it's Tuesday. I went above and beyond for an ex of mine to get reservations to Ariel's Grotto which is in Disney Land. She loved The Little Mermaid and I think that was very romantic just because of her reaction. Just knowing that was her favorite thing in the entire universe really made it a romantic time because she saw how much dedication I put into making that day special for her.
Similar to Drake, you're now looking to make a transition from actor to musician. Do you think your experience as an actor helps or hinders people's ability to take you seriously as a rapper?
 
In the beginning when I started taking rap seriously, it hurt. At the time I was on Even Stevens and I was doing Fairly Oddparents so people saw the roles I was doing at the time and related that to anything that I did. Now, it is helping because the more serious I take my acting career, and implement cinematic elements of my acting career into my lyrics, the more serious I'm being taken. Because now I'm talking about the realness of not knowing when a check is going to come and what it's like having to wait for that next role.
What's next for you?
 
Besides Blackbird, the most immediate thing is music. I've really tried to dedicate myself to music and take a little break from acting. My next mixtape is very close to heart and it's a lot of stuff that people wouldn't know about me. Anybody that's willing to listen, and get to know me on that level, will love it.
Listen to his flow below and don't forget to check out Blackbird when it hits theaters in a city near you.

 

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Kelis Announces ‘Cooked With Cannabis’ Show Will Premiere On Netflix

Kelis is taking her chef talents to Netflix. The musician will host a food competition show titled Cooked With Cannabis that’ll premiere on the very-fitting April 20 (4/20). According to NME, the show will span six episodes and be co-hosted by chef Leather Storrs.

Describing the opportunity as a “dream come true” since she’s a major supporter of the streaming service, Kelis took to Instagram to share how cannabis and cooking is one of her many creative passions. “As a chef, I was intrigued by the food and as an everyday person, I was interested in how powerful this topic is in today’s society,” the mother-of-two writes. “In this country, many things have been used systemically to oppress groups of people, but this is so culturally important for us to learn and grow together.”

Each episode will place three chefs against each other as they craft three-course meals with cannabis as the central ingredient. Each episode’s winner takes home $10,000. Guests will play an integral role in who takes home the cash prize. Too $hort, and El-P are just a few of this season's guests.

 

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I'm really excited to announce my new show, Cooked with Cannabis on @Netflix!! Anyone that knows me, knows how much I love my Netflix, so this is a dream come true. Interestingly, this was one of those things that I didn't go looking for, it kind of came to me. As a chef, I was intrigued by the food and as an everyday person, I was interested in how powerful this topic is in today's society. In this country, many things have been used systematically to oppress groups of people, but this is so culturally important for us to learn and grow together. I hope you all will tune in, it's definitely going to be a good time! We launch on 4/20! XO, Kelis

A post shared by Kelis (@kelis) on Mar 18, 2020 at 7:57am PDT

In a previous Lenny Letter profile, Kelis shared she comes from a line of culinary influences beginning with her mother who owned a catering service. In 2008, the “Milkshake” singer sought to refine her cooking skills by enrolling in the Le Cordon Bleu school. Receiving a certificate as a trained saucier, the New York native put her expertise to the test during pop-up restaurants in her native city, created a hot sauce line, and co-owns a sustainable farm in Quindio, Colombia.

“Food is revolutionary because it is the one and only international language. It’s the most human thing you can partake in,” she said in an interview with Bon Appetit. “We are the only species that cooks.”

This isn’t Kelis’ first foray into the reality-cooking television world. In 2014, she partnered with the Cooking Channel for Saucy and Sweet and published the "My Life on a Plate" cookbook a year later.

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Jeremy Allen

Volkswagen's Atlas Cross Sport Brings Adventure Back To Modern Road Trips

Crucial elements conjure a memorable road trip. For one, a definitive no-shuffle playlist has to hit all the right grooves. Breathtaking sights are a must and importantly, you need a reliable ride to bring it all together.

Before the coronavirus pandemic led to Canada’s closure of the border for non-citizens, VIBE took a trip to Vancouver, British Columbia, where we tested out Volkswagen’s Atlas Cross Sport along winding roads, rain and snow. Hailed as the “boldest SUV in the Volkswagen stable,” the vehicle is worth the hype as its upgrade puts a spin on the modern SUV with its sleek design, three rows of comfortable seating for the crew (or your groceries) and amazing speakers.

Fender Premium Audio is also provided on the SEL Premium trim. Their dedication to sound is thanks in part to the collaboration with Fender and Panasonic. With 12 speakers in total, the 480-watt 12-channel amplifier brings the sound to an arena-like level so when you need Siri, she’ll hear you loud and clear. Woofers are in each door with two wide-frequency speakers and a subwoofer in the rear.

“Pairing high design with the distinctive driving dynamics and value the brand is known for, the Atlas Cross Sport allows you to show up without showing off,” Scott Keogh, CEO, Volkswagen Group of America said in a press release. With a $30,425 starting price, consumers can get the best of both worlds in terms of style and substance. An all-wheel-drive SEL Premium R-Line is also under the $50,000 price tag.

But we know you have other questions. How was the ride? Did you meet Nardwuar? Do all Canadians have a sparkling patios accent like Drake?

Fortunately for you, we can answer two of those questions with confidence. While keeping a timestamp of the road trip, we enjoyed a few wild shenanigans, breathtaking views with the Atlas Cross Sport and plenty of songs you can add to your own road trip in the future.

Take a gander of our adventure below.

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5:55 am MST: I wake up ready for the day but there’s only one thing on my mind–how does Mountain Time work? The curiosity makes me hit the snooze button.

6:00 am PDT: Okay, I’m awake and as it turns out, we’re on Pacific Daylight Time. Welp.

6:45 am PDT: Okay, I’m actually awake.

8:30 am PDT: I befriended some other adventurous spirits last night and we agree to take the trip to Whistler together. Emma and Kai will split the driving and I will supply the tunes.

8:45 am PDT: We get a look at our ride and the midnight blue Atlas Cross Sport is a vision, even with the morning dew across its bumper. We’re going to call him Lil Atlas. We were informed of the ride’s Car-Net Remote Access technology, which is offered at no additional charge for a solid five years. VW’s Car-Net also comes with a solid GPS signal and cellular connectivity.

8:50 am PDT: After snapping a few pics with Lil Atlas, we’re officially en route! Our stops include Horseshoe Bay Park, Porteau Cove, Shannon Falls and lastly, the Summit Lodge Boutique Hotel for our winter activities. Myself, Kai and Emma are all scheduled for bobsledding. My mind is filled with Cool Runnings clips and the instant regret of not bringing a swagged out bobsledding outfit.

9:15 am: I’m reading the room and we seem to be typical millennials– meaning we have extraordinary music taste and a strong appreciation of all genres.

Now Playing: Major Lazer’s “Particular” featuring Jidenna, Nasty C, Ice Prince and Patoranking and Shakira and Maluma’s “Clandestino.”

9:20 am PDT: The sights between Vancouver are so quaint and refreshing. It’s commendable to see so many local shops being embraced by residents. Horseshoe Bay Park is just as calming, despite the heavy overcast.

Now Playing: A Kaytranada back-to-back session featuring his remix of Teedra Moses’ classic bop “Be Your Girl” and Bubba cut “10%” with Kali Uchis.

9:56 am PDT: The turn up to Roddy Ricch’s “The Box” is real...a bit too real.

10:08 am PDT: Kai’s super cool GoPro has fallen off the side of the car. Turns out this timestamp is a good idea as we used it to help backtrack our time on the highway. Yes, the GoPro fell off on the highway.

10:14 am PDT: As Emma turns Lil Atlas around, Kai and I scale the roads for the GoPro. Luckily for us, we were on the shoulder which means it fell on the side of the highway not the middle of it.

Now Playing: Silk City’s “Electricity” featuring Dua Lipa

I’m not sure if the melodic vocals are hurting or helping our search.

10:19 am: It helps, we found the GoPro!

10:28 am PDT: We’re feeling relieved and relaxed. Maybe it’s the heated seats or the notion that we didn’t lose a pricey gadget.

Now Playing: Beyoncé’s “Freedom” with Kendrick Lamar and Jorja Smith’s “On My Mind” with Preditah

10:40 am PDT: Pulling up to Porteau Cove looks like every mountain graphic tee I’ve ever seen, minus the wolf. With so much interior space, we’re able to pick up another media pal and take a few pics with Lil Atlas.

11:30 am PDT: After stocking up on some road trip essentials like wet wipes, vitamins and coffee (tea for me), we’re off to Shannon Falls.

11:45 am PDT: We arrive at Shannon Falls but we’re craving one more adventure before our bobsledding appointments.

12:04 pm PDT: Going off route was a great idea as we uncovered a forest dripping with moss and fresh air. As we get some shots of Lil Atlas, I feel inclined to hug a tree.

12:46 pm PDT: We’re back on the road and I miss an opportunity to play Gucci Mane and Drake’s “Back On Road.”

I. Had. One. Job.

12:50 pm PDT: There’s still some Drake love.

Now Playing: Drake and Future’s “Life Is Good,” Pop Smoke’s “Welcome To The Party”

1:00 pm PDT: We’re just a few minutes away from the Summit Lodge when we learn the tale of Hut Man. According to legend, there’s a man who has lived in a hut in Whistler and takes trips across town on foot. This is rather interesting but also a bummer as the roads get foggy by the minute.

1:04 pm PDT: As we ride up to Summit Lodge, we have an opportunity to take a trip back in time. I decided to take us to the early 2010s when everyone had EDM fever (including us) and a fascination with ombre hair.

Now Playing: “Clarity,” by Zedd, Calvin Harris and Ellie Goulding’s “I Need Your Love,” Swedish House Mafia’s “Don’t You Worry Child,” Krewella’s “Alive,” “Summertime Sadness” by Lana Del Rey and Cedric Gervais, and Major Lazer’s “Lean On” featuring MO and DJ Snake are in heavy rotation.

1:25 pm PDT: We depart from our good friend Lil Atlas. It was a long ride but we’re ready to chow down, specifically Kai.

 

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Breakfast of Champions here in Vancouver @olympics city🏅 fueling up before sliding down the bobsled with @teamcanada & @vw on the world’s fastest ice track! ❄️🇨🇦 #whistler #winterolympics #KaiEatsBC 📷 @desire_renee

A post shared by Kai | Fitness Fashion Travel (@kaieatsworld) on Mar 2, 2020 at 10:29am PST

3:02 pm PDT: We en route to Whistler’s Sliding Center, the world’s fastest track. Whistler played host for the 2010 Winter Games which means I’m 10% more athletic.

 

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A post shared by Whistler Sliding Centre (@slidingcentre) on Mar 15, 2020 at 1:58pm PDT

3:18 pm PDT: We get a quick lesson in bobsledding and we’re learning the basics.

Get big in the sled (hold on to the ropes and broaden your shoulders) Keep head low Keep head low

It’s about to go down...the slide that is.

4:15 pm PDT: There’s no bobbing around on the sleds. We sign on our permission forms and we’re ready to go. With my amethyst close, “Mortal” plays on a loop in my mind.

4:46 pm PDT: The slide was less than 50 seconds but was thrilling as I felt gravity keeping my butt to the sled. If I could compare it to anything, it would be Coney Island’s Cyclone roller coaster. I know I’m going to feel this in the morning.

While a very long day, Lil Atlas kept our minds at ease and the sound system kept our spirits high. Cheers to Lil Atlas and the chance of doing this again in the future.

Learn more about Volkswagen’s 2020 Atlas Cross Sport here.

Listen to the playlist below.

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Snoh Aalegra performs onstage during the 4th Annual TIDAL X: Brooklyn at Barclays Center of Brooklyn on October 23, 2018 in New York City.
Theo Wargo/Getty Images for TIDAL

Snoh Aalegra Scores First No. 1 Single With "I Want You Around"

The serenading sounds of Snoh Aalegra have won over R&B fans as the singer-songwriter officially scored her first No. 1 single on the Billboard charts.

On Tuesday (March 10), Snoh's single "I Want You Around" reached the top spot of the Billboard Adult R&B Songs chart after 41 weeks. The Iranian-Swedish singer released her second album Ugh, Those Feels Again in August 2019, under No I.D.’s ARTium Recordings.

In addition to her Billboard feat, Snoh enjoyed a brief stint at No. 1 on the Urban Adult Contemporary radio chart according to MediaBase. Her track glided over recent mainstays like Khalid's "Talk," Wale and Jeremih's "On Chill" and the megahit that is Chris Brown's "No Guidance" with Drake.

The rise in her single could be attributed to her recent performance on NPR's Tiny Desk series where she performed her second single "Woah" and the album's fan favorites like "Love Like That."

Snoh also raised a toast with Roc Nation as they welcomed her to their team. The singer's "Ugh, a tour again" has nearly sold out as it officially kicks off March 18 in Vancouver before reaching New York, Portland and Los Angeles.

Congratulations to @snohaalegra on your #1 at Urban AC Radio and welcome to the Roc Nation family! pic.twitter.com/Z5iDe8m6Zp

— Roc Nation (@RocNation) March 9, 2020

Watch the soothing video to "I Want You Around" below.

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