Rising Actress Adriyan Rae Is Navigating Her Way to the Top of Hollywood

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Superfly Actress Adriyan Rae Talks Coming into the Industry, Lessons She’s Learned Throughout Her Career, and More

If you aren’t familiar with burgeoning actress Adriyan Rae, getting familiar with her should certainly be the first thing on your to-do list.

As of late, the rising star has been blazing up the Hollywood scene, role after role, in some of your favorite TV seriesfrom FX’s Atlanta to Brockmire and Lee Daniels’ STAR. Now, she’s headed back to the silver screen in the highly-anticipated Sony Pictures film, Superfly, slated for June 15th, alongside Trevor Jackson and Jason Mitchell, among others.

But, for Rae, her walk to the red carpets didn’t just happen overnight, nor was it an easy walk in the park either. In fact, her walk didn’t actually began until after college. The Seaford, Delaware native attended the University of Sciences in Philadelphia, double majoring in Physician Assistant Studies and Medical Laboratory Science before becoming a certified Medical Laboratory Scientist.

However, it was when she moved to Atlanta that she discovered her deep interest in the world of entertainment, and, from there, her love for acting ignited. She acquired the opportunities to work with and gain mentorship from a number industry powerhouses, such as Carl Payne (Martin), Janet Hubert (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air), and Alfre Woodard. Not long after, she then made her film debut in the Netflix-produced blockbuster, Burning Sands.

A growing actress and songstress, although Adriyan Rae may be the new girl on the block, her noteworthy presence alone is enough to proclaim that it won’t be long before the block is hers.

She continues navigating her way to the top, determined to make a mark and leave an impact with each step that she takes and every character that she plays, and its safe to say, we’re already seeing footprints.

Check out our exclusive interview with Adriyan Rae below!

Parlé Mag:
Let’s take it back to the beginning a little bit. What was life like before the big screens and red carpets?
Adriyan Rae: Growing up, life was really simple. I come from a really, really small town. I didn’t come from money or anything. It just consisted of trying to go to school. Like, where I’m from, most people’s goal was to just graduate high school, get to collegecommunity college or whatever, and then like get ready to have kids. You know what I mean? For me, I always wanted to be a doctor. When I was younger, I thought like, ‘Alright, I’m going to be a doctor. This is going to be amazing!’ Where I’m from, there isn’t really a theatre program; there aren’t things for people who like to sing or dance… or anything like that. So, I didn’t even know that acting was an option! It wasn’t even an option to me. I was just like, ‘Anything school-related could possibly be an option.’ But, as I went through life, I figured out that I actually love acting!


Parlé Mag: So, from there, what inspired you to get into the entertainment business, and how did you sort of get your foot in the door?
Adriyan Rae: I was in school, and I was in my last bit of trainingmy internship, to be a scientist. I was wanting to sing. So, I was on the phone with someone, and they were telling me how Atlanta was the Black Hollywood. I was like, ‘Oh, for real? Oh, man! Okay, I’m trying to figure out where I’m going to go after school.’ They’re like, “You should go there.” So, I told my mom, ‘Mom, I’m moving to Atlanta. Like, literally, I’m moving!’ She was like, “No, you’re not!” I said, ‘Mom, I swear, I am!’ Then I passed my boards. Within the next two weeks, literally, when I hit that button and it said ‘passed’, I was like, ‘Alright, ma. I’m moving to Atlanta.’ [laughs]


Parlé Mag: [laughs] Oh, wow! How did she take that? Was she upset? Not wanting you to leave?
Adriyan Rae: Of course, my mother didn’t want me to leave. But I was in Philly, and she was in Delaware. So, she was always close enough for me to just drive. She’s always been super supportive of me making my own decisions and living my life how I want to, rather than how she or everyone else wants me to. She’s always been super supportive of that. So, she wasn’t like, “No! Don’t go!” She was more so crying on the phone and saying things like, “I can’t believe you’re leaving!”


Parlé Mag: Aw!
Adriyan Rae: I was like, ‘Yes, mom! I’m leaving, I’m leaving.’ [laughs] But she was okay. It wasn’t that bad. It was worse when I moved to L.A. Then she really cried! She said, “You’re too far!”


Parlé Mag: As a growing actress, what’s one thing you’ve learned that has kind of stuck with you as you continue to progress in your career?
Adriyan Rae: That’s a really great question, by the way. Hmmm, something that I learned was on the set of Brockmire, in October. I had a director named Maurice Marable, and, just for the scene, he told me that I needed to “step with compassion to my scene partner,” in regards to what we were going through. I was like, ‘Oh, wow.’ Me and him had a talk about that afterward. Literally, that’s like one of my mottos now. Whatever I do, I try to step with compassion, even if it’s like something that’s confrontational or something like that. I’ve learned that if I step with compassion, I can be okay with what is going on with my heart and what I’m trying to talk about, things like that. So, that’s the main thing I’ve learned through acting that I can apply to life.


Adriyan Rae
photo credit: Jay L Clendenin

Parlé Mag: Being that you are still fairly new to this industry, what has been the biggest challenge thus far, and how have you managed to overcome it?
Adriyan Rae: The biggest challenge? There are a lot of challenges here! [laughs]


Parlé Mag: [laughs]
Adriyan Rae: At first, it was the lack of just being able to get the auditions. My friends would be like, “I’m auditioning for this!” And I’d be like, ‘Oh, for real? That’s amazing. I have nothing!’ [laughs]


Parlé Mag: [laughs]
Adriyan Rae: So, it’s just all about finding the right team, man. It’s a part of the journey, honestly. Some people’s right team might be a little boutique agency that only takes a couple people to push them really hard. Some people’s right team might be CAA or ICM. I literally found my agent, Alexander White, because I actually called him from L.A. He’s in the southeast. When I was in Atlanta, I just somehow did not even know he was amazing! [laughs] I get [to L.A.], and I’m like, ‘Hey! I was calling to see if you wanted to rep. I sent over some stuff.” He was like, “Yeah! You’re in Los Angeles. I’m here now. What works?” I was like, ‘Oh, crap! Okay! Cool!’ [laughs]

But I had self-submitted myself, previously, for a movie called Burning Sands. I had a manager at the time. When I self-submitted myself, they were like, “Ah, they don’t want to do this. It’s low-budget. No!” I was like, ‘I think I want to. I like this casting director; I met him!’ They still were like, “Hmm, no.” Then I got the audition. They told me that I could audition. I do the audition, and I book it! I book it, I book it, I book it. They still weren’t happy about it, even when I booked it.


Parlé Mag: Wow, really?
Adriyan Rae: Yeah! So, I flew myself out to Virginia. I put myself up [in a hotel]. I did all of this stuff on my own, just so I could be a part of Burning Sands. When you watch Burning Sands, I’m in there for like a minute, or maybe two minutes. [laughs] But I was busting my behind just to get those two minutes. It was good because when I got to set, I was supposed to have one line, but if you’ve ever watched it, you’d see that I have more than one line because Gerard [the director] was like, “This is dope! Just keep doing your thing! Talk!” I was like, ‘Oh, I get more than one?! Cool! I’ll talk up a storm!’ [laughs] I get there or whatever, and I do it. When I go to Sundance–it premieres at Sundance, one of my castmates was with Alexander White. [My castmate] goes, “Didn’t you say you submitted to my agency?” I said, ‘I did; he said no to me!’ He was like, “Oh, no. I’ll introduce you to him!” So, we walk over and he goes, “Hey, Alex. This is Adriyan; Adriyan, this is Alex.” I say, ‘Oh, yeah! I submitted to your agency and you said no to me.’ And instantly, Alex goes, “Well, we can talk about that right now if you want!” [laughs]


I was like, ‘Let’s talk about it!’ We signed, and literally, we’ve been a really great dream team after that. I got Atlanta through him, Superfly, Brockmire, STAR. Me and him have worked together so well. It’s just about finding your team. You’re going to have to go through some people who don’t believe in you, but you’ll find your team. It’s one of the hardest things, honestly.


Parlé Mag: With each and every character that you portray, what impact do you hope to leave?
Adriyan Rae: I hope that I leave someone who’s likable, someone who’s believable, and someone who can let others feed life from another perspective. So, with STAR, my character, Tallahassee Tammy, everybody was like, “Oh, she’s thirsty!” but there’s somebody who’s going to relate to the girl who’s from the hood and really is trying to use something to get out of the hood. For Candice, my character on Atlanta, I hope that someone saw someone who’s a really good friend and loyal. She has to use all of her advantages to try to get ahead in life because, again, she doesn’t come from much, and she’s trying to make her life better in a way that’s different. For Yvonne [on Brockmire], someone who is extremely loyal but a woman who would only put up with so much, someone that’s relatable. I just hope that I allow people to see things from a different perspective. That’s what I hope.


Parlé Mag: Speaking of the characters that you portray on Atlanta and STAR, how would you describe your experience having the opportunity to work on two major projects with such an amazing cast?
Adriyan Rae: Girl! I cried when they called me and told me I booked it!


Parlé Mag: Oh my gosh!
Adriyan Rae: [laughs] I was like, ‘Are you serious?!’ It was phenomenal. Burning Sands was great; the cast were all super, super close. But when I got on the Atlanta set, when I tell you that I’ve never been on a set like that, I’ve never been! Like, you would think that me [and some of the other cast members] passed like chemistry reads to see if we would all gel and connect and stuff like that, based on our energy. I don’t know if you watched it, but a lot of the stuff in the first scene was improv!


Parlé Mag: Wow!
Adriyan Rae: Just going off of each other’s vibes. It was great because everybody just had such great energy, and there were so many amazingly talented people–none of which were like, “I don’t want anybody to outshine me.” Everybody was really great together and uplifting each other. We made some amazing, amazing art. So, that was what was super dope. And the same thing with STAR. You know, sometimes with women, you’re worried that they’re going to be catty. But none of them were! Ryan, Jude, Brittany, all of them were amazing, nice. Even Jude went to the set and was like, “Hey, I’m not really going to throw a phone at her, so y’all need to figure out what kind of phone you want to use to not hurt her, or how you want me to pretend to throw it.” [laughs]


Parlé Mag: [laughs]
Adriyan Rae: It was just great, man. Everybody was so humble, so talented. It was amazing.


Parlé Mag: Well, I can certainly say that your character on STAR was definitely enjoyable to watch!
Adriyan Rae: [laughs]


Parlé Mag: I loved it! I kind of got mad myself a little bit. I was like, ‘Hold up now!’ [laughs] But it was great.
Adriyan Rae: [laughs] That’s how I know I’m doing my job! That’s how I know, when I can affect you! People were hating me, saying “That little thottie trick!” [laughs]


Parlé Mag: You definitely accomplished the mission! [laughs]
Adriyan Rae: Thank you!


Parlé Mag: Additionally, as you mentioned, we can also expect to see you in the 2018 remake of the film, Superfly, alongside Trevor Jackson and Jason Mitchell. Could you tell us how that came about?
Adriyan Rae: I was actually at the wrap party for Atlanta! I’m like, ‘Whoa! This is lit!’ I’m here with my agent, and me and him are walking through, we’re doing our whole little networking thing. He comes to me and goes, “Yeah, you know I just got you an audition for a lead role at Sony Pictures [for Superfly].” I said, ‘What?! Are you serious?! Now I have no words!’ [laughs] I fly back to L.A. and I do the audition. Then, they send me another audition fornot the lead, not Lex Scott’s role, but the role of Monique. I went in on this audition! I really got into this audition and delved into this character. I loved it. We sent it over, and then they sent me an offer for a different role! I was like, ‘Oh, okay… I don’t want that one.’ [laughs]


Parlé Mag: [laughs]
Adriyan Rae: Like nah, I’m not doing that! [laughs] So, yeah, we declined. I felt so bad because I loved the casting director. The casting director was the same one who cast me in Atlanta. But my agent, when he called, he even said, “I don’t know if you’re going to want it, but they offered it, so I’ma send this over.” I looked at it, and I was like, ‘Nah, man. I can’t be doing that. Love and light is my brand. I can’t be doing that.’ So, then, I thought it was over, but I’m about to shoot STAR, and they send another role! I was like, ‘What the heck?’ because, literally, I’m with my friend, I pull up to his house, and he goes, “Hey! I just booked Superfly.” I said, ‘Oh, that’s so lit! That’s bomb! I auditioned for that, but I declined the role. So, I won’t be in it with you, but that’s what’s up!’ Then I fall asleep at his house, feeling jet lag, and I wake up, and I say, ‘Aye! I booked Superfly.’ [laughs] I checked the email.


Parlé Mag: Dope!
Adriyan Rae: So, I got it, then I got to set, and soon as I seen Trevor, I was like, ‘Ah! What’s up, Trev!’ Trevor did Burning Sands with me. It was just all love. It was great, man.


Parlé Mag: Aside from yourself, who are fellow actresses that you look up to in this business, and why?
Adriyan Rae: Lena Waithe. She’s an actress, producer, writer, she does it all! Also, Ava DuVernay, even though she’s a director, and Issa Rae. I definitely look up to them and how they try to uplift everyone and put other people on, regardless of how they make it. It’s not like, “Oh, I made it. Goodbye, you peasants.”


Parlé Mag: Right.
Adriyan Rae: It’s like, “I made it! What’s up, guys? How can I help? What are you good at? Let’s put you in a position where you can thrive!” You know what I mean? As a Black community, we need to do that more. We need to uplift each other more, allow each other to grow, so that we can grow as a community… past what we’ve been doing.


Parlé Mag: Most definitely.
Adriyan Rae: We grow, but we’re growing very slowly because of certain circumstances that are placed upon us. So, if we stick together, we’ll grow exponentially. That’s what I aspire to do. So, they are amazing to me for doing that, currently, and I get to look up to them and see that. Acting wise, Viola Davis!


Parlé Mag: Ah, she’s amazing!
Adriyan Rae: Isn’t she? I love Kerry Washington and Taraji P. Henson. I love how they master the art of balance, whereas like most female actors, we feel like we can’t have our cake and eat it too. We can’t have kids, we can’t have a career. But they master the ability to do both. Kerry, in the middle of her career, was like, “Hey, look I’m having a kid and a husband, but y’all still gon’ see me on Scandal! We’ll film the whole season, and you’ll never know I was pregnant!” [laughs]


Parlé Mag: [laughs] Exactly!
Adriyan Rae: I love it!

Actress Adriyan Rae
Photo credit: Justin Henry

Parlé Mag: If you could go back, what’s one piece of advice you would’ve given yourself when first starting out in this industry?
Adriyan Rae: I would’ve said some stuff that I wouldn’t have believed and been like, ‘Girl, get out my face!’ [laughs] I would’ve said to myself, ‘I promise you, if you just listen to God, it will all work out.’


Parlé Mag: That’s the best advice to give.
Adriyan Rae: I know! That’s what I would’ve said to myself, point blank.


Parlé Mag: When it’s all said and done, what do you want the world to know about you and your craft?
Adriyan Rae: I want the world to know that I do this because I love the craft, and I work extremely hard because I love the craft. And I work extremely hard within the craft to try to perfect my craft so I’m not disrespecting it. I’m way more than just a light-skinned girl with pretty eyes. I’m way more than just my body or things like that. I love art, I love to create art. I’m a lover of people; I do this to spread love and light to the world, not for myself, not for fame, not for fortune. I’ve been blessed to be able to get paid money to do the things that I love, but that’s not what I want to be remembered by. I don’t want to be remembered as the actress all about the money. I want to be remembered as the actress who had lots of love for everybody, uplifted them, and loved the craft, the art of acting.

Main Image by Bettina Niedermann


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