Philadelphia native actor Brett Gray plays the quirky, loud character of Jamal Turner in Netflix’s coming-of-age series On My Block. In the show, Gray’s character found a stash of Rollerworld money that can spin all of their lives in a crazy way.
In this exclusive interview, discover Brett’s story as he shares his acting journey, his desire to play bold and complex characters, his poppin’ music career, and Jamal’s character developments in the show’s 2nd season.
Hi Brett, tell us about your story in a nutshell.
I was born and raised in Philadelphia and started acting as soon as I can remember. I was always in school musicals and plays and when I was 8 or 9 I started training at the New Freedom Theatre. They exposed me to the professional community theater in Philly. I enrolled in the Creative and Performing Arts High School of Philadelphia in 2010 and continued my arts education there. Once I graduated, I got an agent and started auditioning in New York! And here I am!
What’s your most memorable audition story?
Oh gosh! I have such bad performance anxiety. So, when I did my audition for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular I was so nervous that I had an anxiety attack. I ended up fainting and throwing up, it was a mess. Haha, but I booked it!
How did you land the role of Jamal in On My Block?
It was a very fast process. I sent in a tape and then another and then they flew me out for a chemistry read. At the end of it, I Just KNEW I wasn't getting the part. I was wrong :).
How different are you and Jamal as people? If there are similarities, what are those qualities?
We’re both hilarious and I was definitely a lot like him when I was his age. I'm a lot more chill now and I am NOT afraid to speak my mind or stand up for myself.
What do you think is the best development in Jamal’s character this season? What can you say in his evolution as a character?
I think the fact that he's getting more comfortable doing things when nobody believes in him. This season he’ll let you know when he feels he's being mistreated. I still want him to learn more about making people listen and appreciate him, but he's growing up! He'll get there!
What’s the best thing about playing Jamal?
The antics. I love getting to do all the crazy stuff!
If you’re not acting what keeps you busy?
Music! Which has recently been blowing up for me in a way I never expected. I released a five song EP almost a year ago and it's really been taking off this year.
Out of all the roles that you played so far, is there a particular character that is closest to you and why?
No not really. I'm very different from most of the roles I play.
What’s your dream role?
My dream role is the Joker. I love that character stuff! I Really want to play strong, bold and complex characters in my career.
If you were a book, what book do you think would you be and why?
Oh gosh... The Hunger Games? I don't know. That's hard. I identify a lot with Katniss, fighting for others and doing whatever it takes. That's a good question.
If you could help any charity, what would it be and why?
Definitely anything for teen homelessness. Early in my career I was going from couch to couch and sleeping in McDonald's in New York city. It was the hardest part of my life so far. Some people never get out of that or get a break like I did.
See Brett as Jamal on On My Block only Netflix.