On a recent episode of Shadow and Act Live Trai Byers and Aja Naomi King, stars of historical drama The 24th. The film, which focuses on the all-Black Twenty-Fourth U.S. Infantry Regiment and the Houston Riot of 1917, debuted this August. Byers and King’s work on long-running shows Empire and How to Get Away with Murder respectively, helped them take on the film’s challenges.

“Being on How to Get Away with Murder, I walk into a space and I’m [in] a room with people I really admire like Viola Davis and Cicely Tyson,” said King. “Being in the room with these women who have come to work, who are amazing and incredible and so super kind that it almost throws you off…I had to remind myself in those moments you’re an actor, you’re here for a reason, you belong here.”

“It’s just reinforcing that idea that no matter what, no matter who is on camera with you, you deserve to be there, you belong there and you have a job to do,” she continued. “Do your job, set yourself free…don’t get too starstruck; do your job.”

“It was such a whirlwind of energy and action and different storylines and ever-changing storylines. Just to keep up, it was interesting. I think one of the biggest things for me is as things sped up I didn’t speed up with them,” said Byers. “That helped me pay attention, it helped me to focus more. And by way of that, it helped me to dictate what I wanted to do per season…I know that this is an opportunity to learn and to grow with so many people who are coming into our show, whether it’s Forest Whitaker or Jennifer Hudson[.]”

“At the end of the day, I wanted to be centered,” he continued. “I think, more than anything, it made me more of a rock, if you will, because I couldn’t go with the energy and be able to maintain my sense of self and my belonging on the show, which kept me from being intimidated and made me feel a little bit more useful, just in general. That helped a lot, actually, with The 24th.”

Check out the full interview below. The 24th is now available on VOD.


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