Serayah McNeill is best known for playing singer Tiana Brown on Fox’s hit show “Empire.” She is also a member of Taylor Swift’s squad and appeared in her “Bad Blood” music video. Serayah joined her “Empire” family in New York on Sept. 12. First she attended the Saks Fifth Avenue “Empire” fashion week event, then she headed to Carnegie Hall for the star studded season two world premiere. She looked fabulous in Jason Boateng. Tickets to the special event were given away to fans for free online and if they were unable to attend, they could watch the entire event via a live stream. The sponsors for the evening were Lincoln Motor Company and Pepsi. After a screening of the very entertaining first episode, the cast participated in a panel. The show returns on Sept. 23.
Director and show co-creator Lee Daniels praised Serayah and how much she has grown since being on the show. When he first met her he wondered who is this pretty girl and what is she going to bring to “Empire”? He said, “I’ve seen you bring it. Then I looked up and said who is this girl with Taylor Swift? I’ve seen you grow and I’ve seen you represent ‘Empire.’ What you bring to this show is there’s a crossover in middle America. Porsha and precious my baby, they don’t play to Albuquerque, New Mexico … you suck people in with your talent, your beauty and your hair … people who are in question about this world. You bring it because you are acceptable to middle America and we love you for it and I can’t thank you enough for what you have done for our show.”
When asked about her character Serayah shared, “When I first got the script I didn’t know what I was going to do because I didn’t know how to play this character. Honestly, I am new to the entertainment business and I am new to acting and I have been singing, and modeling, and everything like that but to step into a role that was so powerful and fearless was something that was completely new to me as a person, so playing her has developed me and my confidence tremendously.”
She also spoke about how she got cast:
When I auditioned and when I got the call that Lee said he loves you and to leave the way your hair is … I grew up hating my hair because it was so big and I went to mixed schools and it just wasn’t what I thought was beautiful, so the fact that I got forced into wearing my hair curly for every single day was the biggest, life changing moment for me and I think that like Ta’Rhonda was saying, right before something good happens or something of substance happens, you are in the worst point of your life and that is the testimony and that is what I was going through too and there is something very deep about feeling like there is nothing left and right when you think it is over or right when I was just like ‘Okay I am going to go to school and work,’ I get a call from my high school friend saying, ‘hey, there is this role from my uncle, who is Lee Daniels, I think you would be great for it. I know you like to do this kind of stuff.’ And I am like, ‘Okay! Yeah, what is it?’ And it was ‘Empire,’ and I hadn’t heard of it. They told me Terrence and Taraji, and I was like ‘oh my gosh, no, this is serious. I don’t know how I am going to do this.’ So I auditioned, and I was like, ‘okay,’ and then I get a call back from Leah, your sister, and she said that he loved me and to leave the hair the same. And I come on set and I am terrified to do my first scene with Terrence and Taraji and everybody was already there and these are people I have looked up to and we have all looked up to for years, so that was terrifying for me.