Brian Tyree Henry brings big-time depth to his small-time rapper persona on ‘Atlanta’

Brian Tyree Henry from the show “Atlanta” goes through a lightning round of questions with Times’ Yvonne Villarreal and remembers his first soggy acting job.

For Brian Tyree Henry, if a picture is worth a thousand words, having the artwork for the FX comedy-drama “Atlanta” blown up on billboards that dotted city streets is nothing short of gratifying.

The image featured stars Donald Glover, Lakeith Stanfield and Henry side by side with peaches — Georgia’s state fruit — in their mouths.

“There’s no greater feeling than when I saw the artwork for this show, because I don’t think, in my lifetime, I’ve ever seen a billboard with three black men,” Henry said when he visited The Times’ video studio this week.

“Let alone [three black men] in the front — not in the background.”


“Atlanta,” created by and starring Glover, follows two cousins and their friend as they navigate the city’s hip-hop scene to make better lives for themselves and their families. Henry plays up-and-coming rapper Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles.

Henry said it was important to bring depth to what could have been a one-dimensional, misunderstood character.

“I really wanted people to see him,” he said. “I really wanted people to see that he is someone’s cousin and he is someone’s son and he deserves to be recognized.

“With Alfred, he can’t help how people [view him]. He’s a big guy, he’s kind of rough around the edges. He doesn’t really smile that much. But when you do get that side of him, you’re in. I really wanted that to come across with him. I wanted there to be some levity to him. I wanted there to be some kindness to him. I wanted there to be some kind of relatability, because you don’t really see a lot of Alfreds represented out there. You see the Paper Bois — easy. Personas are easy to touch and see and digest. But you don’t get the chance to really see who the Alfreds are. I want to make sure I did that with him.”


Outside of “Atlanta,” Henry’s fame has been steadily on the rise since he made his Broadway debut as the General in the original cast of “The Book of Mormon.” He talks about his recent work on ABC’s “How to Get Away With Murder” and NBC’s This Is Us.”

You can watch the full interview here:

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Twitter: @villarrealy