Black, Out & About, An Interview of Bryan Terrell Clark

Bryan Terrell Clark is an accomplished actor and singer/songwriter originally from Baltimore. He has performed in Broadway hit shows such as Hamilton and Motown: The Musical, as the Marvin Gaye, for which he received a 2014 Grammy Award nomination for “Best Musical Theater Album.”  

Bryan appeared on the OWN network in Ava DuVernay’s 2020 Peabody Award-winning Netflix mini-series When They See UsCherish the Day, and Queen Sugar.  

His production company, Artists Park Productions, collaborates creatively with INE Entertainment, a leading independent production company, on a series of digital and television projects.

He co-founded inDEFINED, an initiative that inspires and teaches young people to use their voices to erase constrictive labels in our society.  Bryan is currently a co-star in the BET+ Original series Diarra From Detroit as Mr. Tea. 

PrideIndex recently interviewed Bryan via email. He discusses his experience working with several Black Hollywood heavyweights, how he’s navigated a career as an openly gay actor, and more.  

PrideIndex (PI): Bryan, could you take us back to that pivotal moment or experience that sparked your passion for acting? What made you realize this was the path you wanted to pursue? 

Bryan Terrell Clark (BTC): My mother says that my passion for acting was evident before I could even speak. My favorite television shows or music on the radio would come on, and I would just bounce. During middle school, my parents went through a very rough patch in their relationship. I wasn’t popular at school and was pretty quiet. And home did not feel like a safe space. My Aunt Brenda got me my first improv class, and acting is where I found my voice.

PI: You are a performing artist on the stage and on big and small screens; which genre do you find easiest? 

BTC: I’m really grateful to have a career where I can work in different expressions of my art. Stage work requires a lot of strength and consistency. Broadway is 8 shows a week with one day off. You have to take care of yourself and instrument like an athlete. Screen work requires a lot of allowing and subtlety, but the thing that is consistent in both forms is they require you to tell the truth to tell the story. From the most authentic, honest place I can find within myself, I’m always looking to connect to what feels true for the character.

PI: If your management firm/agent instructed you to choose only one, which would you choose? 

BTC: I wouldn’t choose only one form of expression, but I’m currently enjoying television and film.

PI: Name three people who have had the most influence over your artistic style. 

BTC: I look up to and am a fan of many artists. If I had to choose three at the moment, I would say Colman Domingo, Denzel Washington, and Will Smith (pre-slap, of course).

PI: While looking at your resume, I see you have worked with many acting greats. Of all the famous and well-known black icons, you have worked with, who had you the most starstruck? Do you still get struck at all in those circumstances? 

BTC: Oh my God, yes! I don’t know if I would call it starstruck, but I definitely get nervous. There are so many talented people I’ve been blessed to work with and to learn from. Working on “When They See Us” with Ava Duverney was such a gift, but my brother was very nervous stepping onto that set.  I was also blessed to work with my mentor and godmother, Angela Bassett and Lawrence Fish. I learned so much in that process as well. But I push past the nerves to be present and learn.

PI: Let’s talk about Diarra From Detroit and your character, Mr. Tea. What attracted you to this role? 

BTC: I’ve been friends with Diarra since 2007. When I ran into her at a comedy show, she mentioned that she was writing a character based on me and my voice. Mr. Tea is the most authentic role I’ve ever played. I’m very proud of the work that we did this season.

PI: Are you Mr. Tea to a friend or relative in real life? 

BTC: Yes. To most of my friends, I’m the teller. I just try to make sure I do it with a lot of love.

PI: How does it feel to successfully navigate a career in the theater, television, and film as an openly gay actor? 

BTC: It feels like freedom. I’ve always felt like my sexuality was very private. The only people that it should involve were the other people I’m sexual with. I didn’t feel defined by it.  However, then I got married. (Laughs). And I do feel like marriage does involve your community on some level. I was faced with the decision to be open about my sexuality or to keep it private. Our wedding ended up in the New York Times, so you can see what decision I made. (Laughs). I think it’s important for me personally to be the thing I wish I saw growing up. So it feels great to be an openly Queer actor in this industry.

PI: As an openly gay actor, you’ve undoubtedly faced unique challenges. Could you share some of these obstacles and how you’ve overcome them?

BTC: A lot of my challenges centered around “nuance.” As a black actor, I’ve been in auditions where they essentially asked me to be more “hood”… more “urban.” The same is true for a gay actor or a queer actor. There are often stereotypes that are pushed on us to perform. And so often in auditions, I didn’t feel like I met the mold of the stereotype. Slowly but surely, the industry is changing. And there are more nuanced and authentic characters being portrayed.

PI: Your experiences could inspire others in similar situations. What message would you offer to aspiring BIPOC openly gay actors?

BTC: I would say Your authenticity is your superpower. There is no other you on the planet. So, go into every audition and every opportunity to perform, bringing a sense of authenticity and truth. 

Bryan Terrell Clark currently lives in Los Angeles, California and New York City with his spouse Devario Simmons.