Joy Bryant’s Role In ‘For Life’ Pays Homage To The Grandmother Who Raised Her
Joy Bryant | Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for SCAD aTVfest 2020

Actress Joy Bryant periodically pulls from a deck of goddess cards she keeps on her desk while filming her show For Life in New York City. Unlike traditional tarot cards, goddess cards feature feminine archetypes paired with divine messages to offer guidance for the moment. Bryant pulled a card featuring Yhi, an Australian aboriginal sun goddess, during her interview about season two of the ABC series.

“Yhi illuminates your path with her rays and brings clarity as she shows you what you need to know,” Bryant told ESSENCE.

For over two decades, Bryant has lit her own path through Hollywood. The SAG nominated actress made her film debut in 2001’s Carmen: A Hip Hopera, alongside Beyoncé, and played opposite of 50 Cent in Get Rich Or Die Tryin‘. She reunites with 50 fifteen years later as “Marie” in the rapper’s latest TV drama. Bryant stars as the estranged wife of Aaron Wallace (played by Nicholas Pinnock), a wrongly convicted prisoner who becomes a lawyer in a fight to overturn his life sentence.

While the former model has tackled a variety of film and TV jobs, her role as Marie gave her the opportunity to view her upbringing from a different vantage point. Raised by her grandmother Lorraine after her mother gave birth to her at just 15 years old, Bryant feels close to her family’s legacy as she depicts a grandma on-screen herself.

“During the pilot, I realized, ‘Oh my God, [Marie]’s the grandmother,’” said Bryant.

The leading lady now understands her grandmother’s profound sacrifice in a deeper way. To make things more synchronous, the actress is 46—which is the same age her grandmother was when she was born.

“She could have given me up for adoption, and she didn’t. I come from a poor family in the Bronx; resources were slim to none. And she didn’t have to do that. But she did.” she told ESSENCE. “Even though I don’t have children, I’m thinking of me taking on that responsibility— just when you think you did your job, there’s another job to do.”

While empathizing with her grandmother, Bryant also approaches her current role with a sense of catharsis to symbolically reconcile the unhealthy relationship she had with her birth mom.

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“With my mother, we did not have a great relationship. And I’ve put a lot of time into therapy to understand the dynamics between the two of us and find some peace within that,” the cover girl described.

“On the show, their dynamic is a much more nurturing, loving, supportive relationship than the complicated relationship between my grandmother, my mother and me. And so, in a way, I get to sort of heal some of that,” she said.

Perhaps this art-imitating-life moment is the clarity in Bryant’s path her goddess cards revealed. Ashé.


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