Brian Tyree Henry On Losing His Mother & 2 Best Friends: I’ve buried a person every year for three years.
Brian Tyree Henry, who is better known as, Paper Boi from FX’s hit series “Atlanta” is getting candid about his life experiences before his rocket ship to fame. The actor who received his breakout role on the side of Donald Glover (Childish Gambino) is in a new interview discussing the aftermath of losing his mother three years ago to a car accident, his adjustment to fame, and what happened in life when he stopped “giving a f*ck.”
His experience at Morehouse University:
You have to have two suits, you have to cut your hair a certain length—and I was like, ‘F**k outta here with that!’ Like, I thought that college was the place where you find out who you are and what you want to be and you bring your individuality to that. I didn’t feel at the time that I could do that there. Now, as I look back, I’m like, ‘Oh, I see what they were doing.’ They’re trying to set you up in this way to handle how society views a black man, not how black men view each other.
His experience with fame:
I get irritated, ’cause people are like, ‘Oh, you’re having a moment.’ I’m like, ‘What the f**k does that mean?’ Acting was always a place I could escape to. It was always a place I could hide. It was a place of safety. So now that my safety zone is actually giving me notoriety, it’s kind of scary. Because it doesn’t allow you a chance to be damaged, or slip up.
His participation of working with agents telling him he was too fat:
I’m so glad that this shit didn’t start happening for me until now, with the TV and film aspect. I’m so glad it wasn’t back when I was real tiny and I was, like, a 33 waist and I was in the gym every day, and the agents I had at the time were like, ‘You’re still too fat.’ I was like, ‘Are you kidding?’ And you believe that stuff, though. I was berated all the time, like: ‘You’re too big.’ I was so tiny, man. I have never been more comfortable in the skin I am in now. Because all my life, I was so body dysmorphic. I had all these people telling me how I look. Like: ‘You’re not a leading man. You’re not small enough.’
How he looks at his cast mates from Atlanta:
I would fucking kill for those people. I love them. Yesterday was Keith’s birthday, and all I did was send a big-ass fucking all-cap text: HAPPY BIRTHDAY. I love them, man. It’s very rare. I wonder if the Friends cast felt this shit. I wonder if the Seinfeld cast felt this shit. I wonder if the Living Single cast felt this shit. These three human beings exceed any expectation that I could ever expect of what love is.
Losing his mother and two friends three years in a row,
“What kills me is everyone’s like, ‘How do you feel about this Emmy nomination? My mother’s dead. Everytime I close my eyes, I see my hand on her casket. Everytime I close my eyes, I hear my necklace bang on her casket. That’s the last time I saw her. That’s the only thing that gets me out of bed, and it’s sometimes the thing that keeps me in it. So being busy helps, but y’all don’t understand. If she’s not here to see it, I don’t really get a chance to rejoice in it. You know what I mean? I’ve buried a person every year for three years. I lost my best friend to cancer; then I lost my other best friend the next year to lupus. And I lost my mom to a f**king car accident. She wasn’t even sick. She died in the most awful f**king way. So it’s like… I haven’t had a chance to even think about that. But I still have to survive. I like to believe that all these blessings are them. But it would be really nice to look to my left and see my mother sitting there when they call my name. You know? And I’m being real f**king real with you. It’s hard to do this stuff. It’s just like she died yesterday, man. I haven’t even looked at a photograph of my mom since she died. I can’t look at her. And yet people are still celebrating and lauding this thing that I did about my mom. When, at the end of the day, I can’t really rejoice in what I did, because I’m still in pain.
He talks about his experience with his mom:
I remember having this talk with my mother, because I didn’t even know what love meant. I wanted to know why she was with this dude, because we saw how he treated my mother. I was like, ‘Look…do you love him?’ And she would always be like, ‘What’s love got to do with it?’ And I was like, ‘Slow down. You are not Tina Turner. You have to love this person, right? Because if you don’t love this person, why are you wasting your time?’ So I was like, ‘Well, I’m the only man you made. Crafted me in your image, basically. And I can never leave you. No matter where I go, there you are. So if you don’t love this man, leave him, for real. If he doesn’t kiss the back of your neck when you’re scrambling eggs, leave him. If you’re out here raking his f**king acres of yard and he doesn’t take the rake out of your hands, f**king leave him. ‘Cause he’ll never be better than me.’
How he planned to spend time with his mother before she died:
So the biggest thing was that when Atlanta wrapped, I was gonna take my mom on what I was calling the dick tour. Because I was going to go get my mom laid. I was like, ‘Mom, you ain’t never been with a white dude? Wait, Ma, you ain’t never been with a doctor? Wait, what if this white dude has, like, a helicopter?’ I know it sounds skeezy, but she had been on this planet for 68 years and had never experienced a man wanting her or seeing her the way she deserved. And God d**n it, I’ve seen her tie cherry stems with her tongue. That’s how f**king dope my mom was. I wanted to be the man that showed her that she could obtain anything. Anything. Because what’s that life? Oh, you married this person, so you gotta spend every day unhappy next to this motherfucker? Like, no. And right as I had the car rented, she was gone.
Aside from obtaining an Emmy nomination for his character on “Atlanta” fans can expect to see him on the movie screen as well. He is set to star alongside Viola Davis in “Widows” and Regina King in “If Beale Street Could Talk.”