Brian Tyree Henry talks acting career and mental health, says he never wants to “confuse acting for therapy”

Brian Tyree Henry is a cover star, earning placement on the cover of Essence’s recently launched biweekly online cover story series, Of The Essence. During the interview, he discusses his motivation, delves into some past characters, and even tackles the importance of therapy and mental health.

Brian has portrayed a range of characters throughout the years, earning an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Causeway. Playing James Aucoin, he said, “came at a time in my life where I needed to find a reflective surface in order to figure out a lot of parts of the pain and grief I was going through in my own personal life.”

“There was something about him that really tapped into me dealing with the grief I was carrying in my life and the non-confrontational way that I chose to approach it by actually just wallowing in it,” Brian continued. His role as Alfred aka Paper Boi on Atlanta also helped him deal with grief after the loss of his mother.

“He allowed me an opportunity to truly vent, and to truly lay some of those burdens down in a way that I hadn’t really been able to with other characters from my past,” he explained.

While acting has had a positive effect on his healing process, Brian says he never wants to confuse it for therapy.

“This is therapeutic, but therapy is therapy,” he said of portraying different characters. “And I want to encourage as many people as possible, especially Black people, to go to therapy.”

“There is nothing weak about feeling. There’s nothing weak about being a Black man who asks for help, or who actually doesn’t know the answer to how to get on the other side,” he added. 


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