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Brian Tyree Henry, whose work as Paper Boi on Atlanta is a masterful example of understated acting, dropped by the Tonight Show Monday night to discuss the Emmy-winning series and his role in the Broadway play Lobby Hero.
The appearance gave Henry the opportunity to tell a compelling story about his Yale School of Drama audition. According to Henry, he was surprised to learn—literally right before he auditioned—that part of the process involved singing.
"So you have to go in with a contemporary monologue and a classical monologue, [and] usually like a contemporary monologue is, like, a living playwright and you do a monologue from there," he explained. "Then you do, like, something from Shakespeare. When I auditioned, I didn't know that I had to sing. So, you also have to sing a song. If you make it to callbacks, once they do the culmination of all the people who auditioned, because there was like hundreds of people auditioning at the same time, they narrow it down to about eight or nine. My callback was, like, me and like six other black dudes."
As tryouts kicked off, Henry noticed the sound of another auditioning actor singing. "I just had to bite the bullet and go, 'OK, well, I'm gonna go in here and try to do the funniest audition ever,'" he said. After making a $20 bet with the other actors that his audition would indeed get the most laughs, he decided to go with a classic Grease cut:
Henry then gave the Tonight Show audience a little excerpt of that performance before discussing his friendship with Sterling K. Brown and the new season of Atlanta. Catch it in full up top.
The next episode of Atlanta: Robbin' Season, which launched last week complete with a Florida Man nod and Katt Williams, lands on FX this Thursday.