*Tony Grant is a man of many talents. He sings gospel and R&B, he performs on stage plays and on movie sets and he’s a budding screenwriter. Some call him a triple threat; but Grant insists that’s the only way to make it in Hollywood.
“They’re not trying to give out any money” Grant said of show-business executives, so he’s covering all bases as if it’s the bottom of the ninth. We caught up with him in Dallas the night before his debut performance in the traveling stage play “Church Folks…Will Send You To Hell.” When he’s not showcasing his talents on stage you can find him in the studio laying tracks.
Most people might remember Grant as the lead singer of R&B group AZ Yet. That was in 1997. In 2006 he was part of the quartet known as Blayse. These days Grant is a recurring cast member in most Tyler Perry stage plays, but he counts at least twenty movie and stage plays among his credits. Grant says he prefers performing in stage plays because live theatre allows him to showcase his vocal and acting abilities simultaneously. Today he welcomes the challenge, but it wasn’t always that way.
“In high school I thought singing was for girls,” said Grant, whose mother sang backup for gospel great Shirley Caesar. So the Charlotte, N.C. native focused on sports. When he won a football scholarship to the University of Tennessee, Grant said he thought the NFL would be his ticket to success. But soon after, he turned to modeling, and then he was stung by the singing bug. Now fifteen years later Grant says he knows the entertainment business inside and out. And he has shared stage and screen with some of the best in the business.
Grant has shared the spotlight with actresses Kim Fields, Terry Vaughn and Vivica Fox; he has worked with actors Darren Henson and Mel Jackson; he has music ties to Stevie Wonder, BeBe Winans and Kenny “Baby Face” Edmonds. Stage and screen mogul Tyler Perry and Bishop TD Jakes also are phone call away. But Grant credits deceased Rev. David Payton for getting him his first role in “A Good Man is Hard to Find.”
“Back in the day record label executives developed their artists” teaching them how to dance, how to interview and even providing a voice coach, said Grant. Today artists are expected be camera ready while labels are streamlined as primary distributors. That’s why Grant advises budding actors to hone their skills on stage in front of live audiences. He encourages anybody who aspires to be an actor to do stage plays first, “because stage plays help you to capture the moment. Stage plays … sharpen your tools. Going straight to film will discredit you as an actor,” Grant said.
And “pick up a book. Don’t just copy people. Be creative,” Grant said, adding that most people in the entertainment business try to duplicate what’s already being done instead of studying what works then developing their own style. As in any industry, Grant said budding thespians should develop a respect for the industry, and that starts with reading a book. Spoken like the seasoned 43-year-old industry veteran that he is.
Although some people consider Grant’s career to be winding down he’s just getting started. Grant will travel with “Church Folks” and he will rejoin the cast of Perry’s traveling stage plays in the fall. He landed leading roles in bio-pics about the lives of Marvin Gaye and James Brown, both due out in 2013 and he’ll start to co-direct and co-produce some of his own movies. Yes, Grant is getting older, but he also is getting better.
Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas, Texas metroplex. Send comments, questions and speaking requests to [email protected].