Brett Gray has loved music, theater and acting since he was a kid growing up in Philadelphia. But his life changed dramatically in a matter of weeks.
“Everything happened so fast,” said Gray, 23, who was cast as Jamal Turner on the Netflix dramedy series “On My Block.” “One month it was just me, and then the show came out and literally two weekends later, I had hundreds of thousands of more followers.
“All of a sudden, I’m getting stopped on the streets for pictures. It just happened so quickly.”
Even though he’s been in the business for over half his life, his big breaks came fast. “On My Block” was Netflix’s Most Binged Show in 2018. He was also cast in “When They See Us,” a Netflix miniseries about the Central Park Five, which was directed by Ava DuVernay.
Even though he’d trained classically as an actor on how to handle emotions, managing real-life emotions became challenging.
He frequently reminds himself, “You are playing your character, you are not your character.”
Gray found comfort by going back home to be with his family. He also found relief in his music. Last year he released his debut EP “Easy Daze.” Up next, he’ll release his coming-of-age story in an EP titled “Nowadays.”
Schedules and expectations can be overwhelming, but Gray is focused on pacing himself.
“I know it’s hard because we dream super big,” he says. “Move as slowly as you possibly can, even in the chaos around you.”
For example, in his first year of shooting “On My Block,” Gray bought himself a car; the next year he got an apartment in Philadelphia; now he’s moving to Los Angeles.
He just finished shooting Season 3 of the hit show, which is expected to be out in early 2020.
Gray worked at McDonald’s when he was in high school. He’s always had good spending habits and has been able to save money. His paychecks are bigger these days but his philosophy stays the same.
“It doesn’t matter the amount, it matters how well you manage the money,” he said, noting he frequently asks his mother, as well as his uncle, for financial advice.
Note to self
Gray is a creative person and always has a lot to think about. His life hack is keeping his thoughts in his iPhone notes.
“The pressure you put on yourself is only yours,” he said, advising others to breathe and ask yourself what you really want.
He has a positive outlook and knows, “The pieces will fall together. It’s a lot of believing in yourself.”