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'The Mayor': Brandon Micheal Hall says playing a rapping politician is his ideal role

Brandon Micheal Hall's background as a musician and activist made him the perfect fit for a rapping politician in ABC's
Brandon Micheal Hall's background as a musician and activist made him the perfect fit for a rapping politician in ABC's "The Mayor."
Brandon Micheal Hall's background as a musician and activist made him the perfect fit for a rapping politician in ABC's
Cast members Brandon Micheal Hall and Lea Michele at a screening of ABC's "The Mayor."
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Entertainment Weekly

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A celebrity runs for office in what seems to be a big publicity stunt for his career. But the plan works too well and said celebrity wins the election. Sound familiar?

If it does, that's just a case of art imitating life because it's the plot for the new series, "The Mayor." The story centers on a 27-year-old rapper named Courtney Rose who runs for office in his hometown to promote his music career, but then actually wins and has to deal with the responsibilities that come with his victory.

"The Mayor" stars Brandon Micheal Hall, Yvette Nicole Brown and Lea Michelle and was created by Jeremy Bronson, a television writer and producer best known for his work on "The Mindy Project" and "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon." Among the executive producers is Daveed Diggs — the Grammy and Tony Award-winning actor, rapper and singer who originated the dual roles of Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette in the Broadway musical, "Hamilton."

Diggs' influence on the show runs deep. The show's setting is in a fictional Bay Area town similar to the "Hamilton" star's hometown of Oakland. Hall, who plays the young rapper-turned-mayor, Courtney Rose, says that Diggs schooled him on Bay Area hip-hop:

He taught me about the Bay style. This is a specific way that they rap, the sound to it. It's — as they will call it — hyphy.

The Mayor Trailer

Hall plays the young mayor, having auditioned for the role just two years after graduating from The Juilliard School. 

When Brandon Micheal Hall stopped by The Frame, he spoke with John Horn about going from singing in the church to landing the role on "The Mayor."


On auditioning for Juilliard:

I did Caliban from "The Tempest" and I did "Joe Turner's Come and Gone" and I sang "If Ever I Would Leave You" from "Camelot." It was so bad. It's interesting because my first audition, the summer before, I'd just gotten back from a summer camp and I developed a plantar wart on the bottom of my foot. It's the worst, horrible thing you can ever feel. And so I went into the audition. I was the first one to go up in the day. [Playing] Caliban was a very physical piece, so I jumped up on a chair and my plantar wart hit the chair and I just screamed and I fell flat-faced on the ground. I think they thought it was part of the audition! They were like, This guy is really getting into this role! And so I'm laying on the ground and I'm thinking to myself, Okay, this can either make or break this audition. I'm either going to get up and continue or this is going to be it. So I incorporated it into the audition and I was number seven on the callback list. They luckily called me back.

How growing up in the church influenced his acting career:

I sang in the church. My mom's a preacher and she was also part of a music group that would travel from South Carolina to Georgia and then back up to North Carolina then back down to South Carolina to sing. So my sister and I were very engulfed in the church and that's why I got my first real experience of theater. The church was the moment where I saw a preacher take this ancient text and saw an entire audience be moved and engulfed by his words and his truth and would talk about it days and days afterward and how it impacted their lives. And me being a person of forward-thinking, always trying to create new things, I was like, How can I do that? What can I do — without becoming a preacher? And acting just fell into my life and that's how I got bit by the bug.

How his role on "The Mayor" hits all the right notes:

Honestly, I had this conversation with a friend of mine in New York City ... I was like, I really want to do something on a political scale because everything is happening so fast in the political world right now. This is my moment to break in and find another purpose to talk about these social issues. And so I was telling him, I want to do something where I get to rap, I get to be a politician. And I tell you, no lie, those were the exact words. And then ["The Mayor"] comes out.

How present Donald Trump's presidency is in the show:

It's very present. The artistic side of the show is that we're not trying to promote or to give any time of ownership to Donald Trump and his presidency. What we're trying to do is create a world in which the youth and people who are active can see someone who is trying to make a change, someone who is fighting for the community and see that positivity on the screen and say, Okay, if he's doing this — if ABC is taking the initiative to put this type of show out — then that means I have no reason not to want to be active in my community as well.

On his character, Courtney:

What's that great quote from "Spider-Man"? With great power comes great responsibility? That is, I believe, our purpose in life, to create this world better for the kids who are coming up. And right now there's so much chaos and stuff that is going on that we have to find a way to pinpoint the things that we want to talk about. And to put those out into the world and say, Look, this is what's going on. Let's not banter about it. Let's find a solution to the problem. And that's what Courtney does.

On working with Daveed Diggs:

It's a blessing because Daveed is like a big brother to me. Daveed worked on "Hamilton" which ... is a cornerstone of art that will be talked [about] for generations and generations. To have him every weekend, either Skyping or in the studio and to converse about hip-hop and how it's relevant to today and what it means for our communities, it's a blessing. He imputes so much into me daily that it makes this job a lot easier.

What Diggs taught him about Bay Area rap and hip-hop:

He taught me about the Bay style. This is a specific way that they rap, the sound to it. It's as they will call it hyphy. It's very hype. It's very different. It's very original. They find different ways to break up the bars.

They just rhyme on a completely different level. In the south, we have a set rhyme that we rhyme too. But to get into that world of Oakland and the Bay Area, Daveed has been able to help channel me into that.

On working with show creator Jeremy Bronson:

Jeremy writes as if you can put it to a beat and that's where the comedy comes in play. Comedy is in this set world, in this set structure of, Here's the movement, here's the movement, and punchline, boom! And if you don't hit it spot on, then the comedy won't come ... Just allow it to just roll off the tongue. And so with Jeremy Bronson, to sit down and decode his script and finally get to a place where it's very seamless — where I feel like I'm the head of the mastermind — that's just a conversation that's constantly ongoing.

To hear John Horn's full interview with Brandon Micheal Hall, click on the player above. 

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