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Bryan Terrell Clark
Image Credit: Andrew J Cunningham/Getty Images

Bryan Terrell Clark will rave about Diarra From Detroit every chance he gets. That’s how much he loves this show. The actor stars in the upcoming BET+ series, premiering March 19, that’s putting a spin on the noir genre. The show follows a divorcing schoolteacher named Diarra who goes down the rabbit hole to figure out what happened to the Tinder date that ghosted her.

Bryan plays Mr. T, Diarra’s close friend and colleague. It just so happens that Bryan and Diarra are friends in real life as well. For Bryan, this role is a “big deal” for him because “as a queer Black man, it’s very rare that I get to see the kind of man that I am and a lot of my friends are on television.” Hollywood Life spoke exclusively with the actor about this dream role, working alongside Diarra Kilpatrick, and just how deep Mr. T will go for his friend! Read our Q&A below.

Bryan Terrell Clark
Bryan Terrell Clark with the ‘Diarra From Detroit’ crew at TCA. (Corey Nickols/Getty Images)

I saw on Instagram that you wrote that this project is a dream come true for you. What does this role mean to you? 
Bryan Terrell Clark: It’s interesting. I had this conversation all day today that sometimes you take the role, and the purpose of that role for you as an artist is to pay your mortgage. Every now and then you get an opportunity to play something that you’re really proud of, and that’s what this is for me. The representation conversation, the diversity conversation, has been brought up again because there’s been lots of promises that have not been met. Shows of color are dropping off like flies, being canceled. Black people who were put in executive positions to help further the morality of our industry have been fired. In the midst of all that, you get a piece like this. The genre is very familiar. It’s a modern noir, but at the center of it is a Black woman. Usually, that space in mysteries and private eye things are reserved for white men, so it’s beautiful to kind of be a part of that. Personally, it’s a big deal for me because, as a queer Black man, it’s very rare that I get to see the kind of man that I am and a lot of my friends are on television. I think there’s an interesting paradox because in our community masculinity is kind of secretly sexy and prized. But in the industry, you don’t often see it unless it’s on the down low.

To be able to kind of play a character that reminds me of myself and a lot of my friends, it’s a gift. I say it all the time: queer people are not a monolith, and Black people are not a monolith. We don’t often get a chance to see it. I’m really thankful for heroes in my life like Billy Porter and Colman Domingo. I knew them over a decade ago in theater. It’s just now in the 2020s that they’re really getting a chance to be seen in the media. Even amongst those two friends and mentors, I’m still different than them. It’s beautiful and it’s a blessing to have a friend like Diarra and artists like Diarra who actually want to capture nuance and actually want to capture authenticity when it comes to the roles that she creates. Mr. T is all of those things. He’s educated. He’s hood. He’s straight from the hip. You don’t often get to see the nuances of the kinds of queer men that grew up in cities like Baltimore, Philly, and Detroit. Our voices aren’t often represented on the screen. I’m really grateful for an opportunity to do that.

When discussing the character, did you get to mold Mr. T to be very similar to yourself? 
Bryan Terrell Clark: Absolutely. It’s interesting because I’ve known Diarra since 2007, so the gift of entering the project was that she knows me very well. She knows my voice very well. When she was crafting this Mr. T, I think she was very clear with everybody about the kind of voice that she wanted to create. Because as her friends, we would always complain about not being seen on television. There are literally direct quote things that I’ve said to her in life in the show. And then I also want to shout out her husband Miles because, as an EP, we had great conversations about scenes and certain language and dialogue just to make sure that we were being true and honest and sensitive and authentic to the people we were representing. Even on set in the middle of a scene, I could ad-lib or I could say, “I feel like he would say this.” It was very collaborative. But also, at the same time, it was very easy because Diarra’s vision was so clear.

What is the dynamic between Mr. T and Diarra in the show?
Bryan Terrell Clark: The dynamic between Mr. T and Diarra in the show is the same in real life with us. I always joke around and say when her husband Miles is not around that I’m her work husband. On the show, what’s so fun is that we both work as teachers, and I feel like it’s the same thing. I’m like her work bestie, her work husband, in the show. Our friendship and our chemistry definitely translate on the screen. So when it feels real and it feels authentic, it’s very, very true. I’m very supportive of her. I think she’s brilliant. I’m protective of her, as any brother would a sister. All of that is in the show.

Does he get involved in her quest for answers?
Bryan Terrell Clark: He gets involved in her mystery reluctantly. I think as all friends are, right? Like, you had that friend that’s dating that person, and you don’t want to say you shouldn’t date this person. You try to find the loving way to say, “Don’t do that because it’s going to end in disaster.” With this situation, you have Diarra chasing after a man who’s ghosted her. So let’s go realistic. Who wants their friend chasing someone who’s not returning their calls? Her theory that something happened and maybe he was kidnapped, what’s crazy about this adventure is it’s true. We decided to kind of go down the rabbit hole right into this other world that is kind of like the underbelly of Detroit, and the adventure takes an interesting dark comedy turn.

Bryan Terrell Clark
Bryan Terrell Clark with Dominique Perry, Kenya Barris, and Diarra Kilpatrick. (Corey Nickols/Getty Images)

Does Mr. T have any vocal prowess?
Bryan Terrell Clark: Mr. T may or may not be singing in one of these episodes, which I’m actually really excited about, I’m not going to lie. You’re going to get a chance to see a lot of hidden talents from a lot of characters in the show, but Mr. T has some really shining moments and music is one of them.

You’re also headlining Carnegie Hall in March. How are you feeling about that?
Bryan Terrell Clark: It’s crazy. I feel two ways about Carnegie Hall. March 15 is gonna be a dream come true to the inner child performer in me. That space is legendary, so to be able to stand on that stage and sing with a 70-plus piece orchestra, The New York Pops, and I’m singing Motown music, it’s overwhelming. It’s literally overwhelming. When I think about it. It’s an answered prayer.



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