Bre-Z knew she’d nailed her co-starring role on “All American” during her first audition for The CW series.
“My audition process was just like any other audition but I got called back,” says the 31-year-old rapper/actress. “Usually you leave and they call your agent — but they told me to my face that same day [that she won the role].”
On the series, which was gifted an additional three-episode order this week, Brez-Z (born Calesha Murray) plays Tiana “Coop” Cooper, a gay teen attending South Crenshaw High in Compton with her best friend Spencer James (series star Daniel Ezra).
Spencer is recruited to play football in Beverly Hills by high school coach Billy Baker (Taye Diggs); the series is based on the true story of retired NFL linebacker Spencer Paysinger, who played for four NFL teams (including the Giants) from 2011-2017.
A native of Philadelphia, Bre-Z’s first big TV role was on the Fox drama “Empire,” where she played Freda Gatz, a rapper signed to Gutter Life Records.
“Freda is very hardheaded. Her exterior was so tough and there was no penetrating that,” she says. “I think with Coop you still see a young girl. We see vulnerability, we see emotion, we see femininity. I think that [with] most lesbian characters on TV it’s like, ‘Oh, she’s gay. She wants to be a boy or man.’ But I did not want to do that.
“We portray so many real life things [on ‘All American’]. I wanted that to be as true as possible.”
Bre-Z says that one scene on “All American” — in an episode where Coop was kicked out by her mother, a choir director, after coming out as gay — really resonated with her.
“It was emotional. That’s a hurtful thing to neglect your children,” she says. “I think when you bear a child, when you give birth, that love is unconditional. It should not be … that you’re able to just shut out your child and throw them to the wolves.
“With the temperature of the world today, with suicide and mental health, it’s scary,” she says. “Suicide rates and things of that nature which hit the LGBTQ community are through the roof. I put a lot of myself into Coop. She’s definitely Bre-Z in high school, minus my parents kicking me out and [me] joining a gang.
“I wasn’t a troublemaker in high school,” she says. “I was the one making beats on the cafeteria table.”
She says she would “love” to see Coop “just prove herself right” in her choices.
“I think that art will forever imitate life and we need to be sending the correct message,” she says. “There is an expensive price to pay for misleading people. So if I can help someone, whether it be coming out just regaining self-confidence, or self-esteem, then my job is done.”
She’s asked about her first TV kiss, which occurred on an episode of “All American” when Coop locked lips with Patience (Chelsea Tavares).
“It was funny just trying to get into it,” she says. “I was like, ‘Did you brush your teeth? Did you use mouthwash? Did you chew any gum?’ That is a prerequisite for me.
“More men hit on me than women,” she says. “I don’t know why they think I’m hot. I don’t know if I have a type, to be honest. The way you treat people is what catches my eye.”
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