There are many ways to discover ones passion and no single path to get there. Failing in one job just may land you in your dream career leading to your purpose in life. Actor Tyler Lepley of OWN Network’s highly rated television drama, “The Have and Have Nots” is living proof of that.
Tyler Lepley plays devoted son Benny Young on the Tyler Perry hit series, “The Have and Have Nots” on OWN. The show is set in Savannah, Georgia and follows the successful and wealthy Cryer and Harrington families with all of its opulence, privilege and dysfunction (“The Haves”) and the Young family headed by Benny Young’s mother Hanna (Crystal R. Fox), (“The Have Nots”), a poor, single mother who works as the Cryer family’s maid and the lives of her adult children Benny Young (Tyler Lepley) and his sibling Candace Young (Tika Sumpter). While their socioeconomic status is different they are all essentially the same dealing with and experiencing ups and downs, conflicts, hardships, joy and grief.
Lepley’s career into acting began by being at the right place, at the right time and in front of the right person – at the gym. Yes, at the gym! Prior to his acting career, Tyler Lepley grew up as an only child in a rough neighborhood in Philadelphia. Having participated in athletics from a young age, Tyler was a three-sport star at Central Bucks High School West, competing in basketball, track and football. Tyler also played collegiate football at Kutztown University, where he was a starting running back for two years. He graduated from Kutztown with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
Upon graduation, he moved to Los Angeles, unsure of what lay ahead but wanting a change and a quest for more, Lepley began a career in personal training. One day, he was approached by a producer who loved his look and personality and thought he could be right for a role in an upcoming film. Lepley auditioned for the part and booked his first role in an independent feature. After that, his passion for acting began to flourish. He knew he had found his calling and began to cultivate and hone his craft. He began taking numerous acting classes, acquired an agent and manager, and the opportunities came with abundance. The combination of talent, the right tools, advice and team, his journey had begun. Learn how this budding actor got his career started in entertainment and how he is “having it all” by pursuing his passion.
Q: Your path to acting is unique. What was it about acting that interested you to seriously pursue it as a career?
TL: I feel the biggest light bulb moment for me was something that I experienced in my past.
I had aspirations to pursue professional football. I received a football scholarship to Kutztown University and I didn’t end up making it there. Now I’m happy that I didn’t make it. I learned a very powerful lesson from that. Not succeeding in that great opportunity was confusing to me but when I stumbled into acting I booked my first project without even trying to.
I was approached at a gym by a Producer for a role that I auditioned for. At this point was when I started to really get interested in the craft. The opportunities that were put in front of me before (football) at the end of the day I didn’t work hard enough at it like I should have. A lot of times your gift can be your curse. I was naturally gifted for athletics, but I didn’t work hard at it. A few years ago I had a déjà vu moment when I had a really big opportunity in front of me that I didn’t work at it and I was unprepared. I realized that I would be a fool if I made the same mistake twice. That was when I really started investing myself in things that were important to me and applying myself.
Q: How important was athletics in your life growing up in a tough neighborhood and how did it help prepare you?
TL: Having an athletic background prepared me spiritually, physically and mentally for acting. To be an athlete you have to be really disciplined and dedicated every single day. Sports prepared me by giving me the sense to apply that same dedication and discipline to acting.
Q: You got your start by having the right look that the producer felt was important for your first role, but your personality helped you secure it. How important is it to have a personality beyond looks?
TL: Yes, always make sure that you have something else to go with your looks. You can’t rely on just that. You have to cultivate and develop a personality. It’s dangerous to just rely on your looks (which is kind of crazy to me). At the end of the day whether it is someone on the cover of a magazine or in real life you want to come across in a positive way. I meet a lot of really beautiful women and sometimes when they open their mouth and start to speak it’s like, “Oh my gosh, get me out of here!” (laughs) I’m sure there are women who say the same thing about men. It goes both ways.
It’s not only important to have a personality, but a personality that is easy to get along with. I never really understood the notion or benefit of nose in the air and I’m better than anyone else mentality. Make sure you have a solid foundation and a great personality. Remember looks fade eventually.
Q: Atlanta is booming with television production opportunities. What advice do you have for people who may not be able to move to LA, but Atlanta may be a closer option for them?
TL: While most acting opportunities are in LA, until you can make the move prepare yourself in the community that you’re in. It’s better to be over prepared than under-prepared. Let’s say you live in Wyoming and you plan to move to LA in the next couple of years. I would suggest every day ensure that you’re reading all of the trade materials you can, attend every acting class that you’re able to in your community and do any monologue that you can, even if it’s for an audience of 3. The bottom line is that you have to be preparing yourself in some way and working your craft. So when you finally get to LA you won’t regret that you wasted your time by doing nothing and that you were proactively pursuing and honing your craft.
You could find yourself in an audition situation and the worst feeling is to get an opportunity and blow it because you were unprepared. Figure out what you like to do and work at it. The road to success is never a straight incline and there are no mistakes when you really think about it and look at the big picture. I went to school to be a lawyer and I had a dream of an NFL career and I didn’t really succeed at either one. At times I felt lost, but at the end of the day both of those letdowns helped me get to where I am today. You have to believe in yourself and just because you come to a roadblock or a hurdle doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily a failure. When you run into roadblocks that feel like failures a lot of times it’s information to do something different. Rather than getting down on yourself, sometimes you have to believe and just trust in the process. You’ll be surprised how far it can take you.
Q: You moved from Philadelphia to LA not sure of the direction you were headed (which worked out for you). What is your advice for someone who wants to make a move (physically) and a change of environment?
TL: You can look at it from two ways. If you’re looking to make a change do it on a day and plan it when you’re really feeling strong and positive. When I came to LA to act I was proactive in my pursuit every day. Whether it was working out or greeting people in the streets I made sure that I was putting out positive energy into whatever I was doing so that it would come back to me positively.
Q: What can we expect from Benny this season?
TL: You can expect a texture or layer that he’s been missing. I’ve been reading a lot of Pulitzer Prize playwright August Wilson’s work who wrote a lot about growing up under-privileged in the South. Benny will be able to identify with some of the characters of August Wilson’s work or Walter Younger character from “A Raisin in the Sun.” What you’re about to see is not the tenderness of his love for his mother and sister but what happens when his loved ones are threatened and how he deals with it. There will also be some complicated relationships that will unfold this season that will be surprising to viewers.
Season 2 of ‘The Haves and the Have Nots” premiered on Tuesday, January 6, 2015. Tune in Tuesdays, 9 pm for “The Haves and the Have Nots” on OWN.
Lepley recently appeared on “90210” and can be seen in other films such as “Baggage Claim” with Taye Diggs, Paula Patton, Jill Scott, Tia Mowry-Hardrict and Derek Luke, as well as “Hollywood Chaos” with Vanessa Simmons and Tangi Miller.
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