Gayes, Alexandra Grey is the go-to girl to be watching on television! The Chicago native is a singer and actress signed under the umbrella of GVA Talent Agency and Zero Gravity Management; the two have successfully captured her in shows from Amazon's Transparent to NBC's Chicago Med. Alexandra recently appeared as a guest star on How to Get Away with Murder, and now she stars as a recurring actress on Fox's Empire sixth and final season.
We had the pleasure of speaking with Alexandra to learn more about her rise to stardom as a trans actress. Grey's character on Empire serves as a vocal coach named Melody Barnes. Melody is a certified bad ass and represents the black trans community as nothing but professional.
Spoiler Alert! In the most recent episode, Cookie, played by Taraji P. Henson, recognizes Melody's distinguishable vocal runs during Lala's performance, later realizing that she once knew Melody before she transitioned to a woman. Melody was formerly a man named Melvin who was signed to Empire by Lucious, played by Terrence Howard.
Things get emotional during a flashback scene of Lucious and Melvin in a dressing room before a performance. When Lucious enters the room he sees Melvin dressed as Melody. Melody asks Lucious to perform as Melody but he vehemently refuses, demanding her to get out of her "ridiculous costume" and that he signed a contract with Melvin, not Melody.
Lucious further threatens Melody, saying that he owns her and the she must pay back the money his label put behind her if she doesn't perform as Melvin. Melody ultimately refuses saying, "This is who i am," before storming out.
In the present, Cookie reconciles with Melody and forces Lucious to listen to her sing. After her stellar performance, Lucious apologizes for his ignorance about her transition in the past.
Fans of the show have given Alexandra an overwhelming amount of love for her performance in the recent episode. Luckily for fans, Alexandra exclusively shared details about how she felt during the filming of her scenes and her influence on other aspiring trans actors.
1. What was your exact reaction after learning you were cast on Empire? How was the audition process for you?
I was so ecstatic! I was always a huge fan of Empire and a dream of mines was to sing on a show like this! The audition process was surprisingly exciting! I love getting to sing and that was part of the audition process. There were moments in the script where I had to sing and act simultaneously and I loved that because I do that with my friends all the time! Haha! After an agonizing two weeks of waiting, we got the first call and from there, a series of testing with network comes before we finally got the offer. I was so happy! I literally cry every time I wrap a new episode!
2. Do you feel your role on Empire will provide more opportunities for trans women of color to be cast in TV shows/movies?
Oh I sure hope so!! Empire is one of the largest television series with a predominantly black cast and for them to put a trans story line front and center this entire season speaks volumes! I hope this opens up so many doors in Hollywood for artists like me and spark a greater conversation about diversity within the LGBTQIA community. Moreover, I’m elated the world gets to see a trans person, not only as an actress, but a singer as well. We do it all! Television is becoming more progressive, but film wise, I’m still waiting to see a trans woman of color in a major motion picture. It’s time!
3. Explain the types of emotions you had to relive when acting out your scenes as Melody in the most recent episode? Was this role triggering in any way, if so, how?
There is always some elements you bring to any character from your personal life. For me, this past scene with Lucious really reminded me of what it was like coming out to my family as trans. They were not accepting at all. Years have gone by and I’m still an outcast in my own family. So I always draw on my life's experience to help push the characters story. I will say when filming this scene, Terrance Howard and I were both very emotional. It was almost like he was my dad, and I remember after the director called cut he hugged me for a long time because I couldn’t stop crying at how real it all felt.
4. How does it feel to work alongside stars like Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson?
It’s been truly a blessing! These are artist I have admired and respected since I was a kid. To share this space feels so unreal! Terrance loves to play the piano in between takes so whenever we work together we always sing, and Taraji is just so sweet, she’s always asks if everyone is treating me right and if I’m having fun. I then say to myself, “OMG, she just talked to me.” Haha!!!! They are iconic!
5. Empire has been a great medium to help launch people’s music careers. Explain your passion for music and what you hope the show can do for your music career?
Yes, I have noticed that! I think I wanted to be a singer before I was an actress. I'm excited that I get to record music for the show, and I hope to pursue music after the show as well. I think it’s time for a trans music artist [to become] mainstream. I’m ready! I hope it gives me the platform for people to see I’m really no different than any other female artist. And people will be very surprised because I have a lot more songs and performances coming up this season.
6. If you had your own show as the lead actress, what would be your ideal role? Why?
I love this question! If I could be the lead of my own show, I would want to be an attorney. I’ve admired characters like Olivia Pope and Annalise Keating. I’d love to be a bad ass woman on a series! That would be my ideal role.
Gaye's let's support our sister by watching her on Empire every Tuesday night on Fox. Watch a snippet of Alexandra in action below, and be sure to follow her on Instagram: @alexandragreyofficial
Written By: K. Keith and Sarah Sierra