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After Two Years Of Waiting For A Fulfilling Role, Trai Byers Says Acting In 'The Piano Lesson' Is Divinely Aligned

“Biblically, professionally, personally, the worlds were all aligned. I was in the middle of something that was on time for me and that I was specifically called to do,” he says.

At the conclusion of the Fox drama Empire, Trai Byers found himself in a holding pattern for two years. Anyone who has ever had to wait, knows that it isn’t characterized by comfort. It certainly wasn’t for Byers. 

“It was a private little war within myself,” the actor says of the time dealing with the person he was and the person he was becoming.

Noting he was winging between extremes, in love with God and then wrestling with God, During these two years, Byers also found himself asking some big questions. “Who am I? What am I going to do next? What do I want to do next?” he shares.

While offers came his way, nothing aligned with his spirit, Byer points out. And he’s not the type of artist to force something just because it might look good to others. 

“What’s ours is ours and you won’t miss what’s for you,” Byers says. “With that belief and spiritual undergirding, I just believe that because I take the time to pray and think about it, my no’s are just my no’s. They are thought out and considered in such a way that I don’t have any regrets about them even if I’m sitting down for a while. I know that I did the right thing for me.”

Then Byers got the chance to audition for the role of Avery Brown in August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson. The monologue he was required to read for the audition felt like “God reaching out to [him] through the lines,” Byers recalls.

“Biblically, professionally, personally, the worlds were all aligned. I was in the middle of something that was on time for me and that I was specifically called to do.”

It’s only in retrospect that Byers sees that the period of waiting was precisely what he needed to take on this role of Avery, a preacher looking to start his own church in Pittsburgh after leaving a less hospitable Mississippi

During what Byers calls his “moment of wait,” he found himself reading theology and Black history books, “just learning about who we are in the flesh and who we are in the spirit,” he says.

When the role of Avery came about, he was physically and spiritually prepared to take it on. “Unbeknownst to me, that two years of angst and waiting and pain and seed planting, now in this moment of harvest, I’m prepared to do what I need to do.”

The project also served to reunite Byers with the theater. “I trained in theater before. It was always my intent to get back. I just didn’t know I’d be back that soon,” he says.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 07: (L-R) Trai Byers, Danielle Brooks and Ray Fisher pose at “The Piano Lesson” photo call & press day at The Skylark on September 7, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/WireImage)

The production pairs him with some impeccable talent, including Danielle Brooks, Samuel L. Jackson, John David Washington and director LaTanya Richardson Jackson

Byers says working with Richardson Jackson is like being in acting school all over again.  “She’s such a consummate professional and such a keen actor, she sees the isms and calls them out,” Byers explains. “When I saw isms, I mean the specific behavior that an actor has or the tricks that an actor might have or use to get you through a scene. She’s calling out things that I didn’t know were there. You surprise yourself. She made room for us to surprise ourselves.”

Byers is taking that notion of being surprised and applying it to his career when it comes to his next moves.  

“I’m allowing the space for God to be specific with me,” he says. “There’s some things I’ve had conversations about that could be forthcoming but I don’t have an answer yet. Now, what I have to do is the play. And the next thing I have to do is the thing that I’m supposed to do, whatever it is that God lays before me.”