It’s almost unbelievable to think that we were first introduced to Lance Gross over a decade ago. From TV to film, he has walked the delicate line between cultural heartthrob and creative savant that few are able to successfully traverse. He is, at once, warm and transparent while still captivating us to want to see more. His turn as Tyrique Chapman on FOX’s certified hit drama, Our Kind of People, shows a range and maturity to his talent that proves his staying power. Perhaps more impressive than his longevity in this business is the ease with which he’s moved from man-crush status to a dedicated family man whose love for his wife and children makes him even more magnetic. Now the newly minted member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity is thinking about legacy and relishing in his power to call his own shots.
21Ninety‘s Iman N. Milner caught up with everyone’s favorite guy to talk career and why he’s never afraid to say ‘no’.
21Ninety: Who is Lance Gross as a man and as an artist at this point?
Lance Gross: I’m just a vessel to tell amazing stories, that’s what I get my pleasure from. I’m a family man—a husband, a father. I’m just here to represent us well.
It does seem like you’ve taken the time to really let life happen. How do you think that’s informed your acting?
LG: All acting is being able to showcase emotions and stories—you can take parts of your life and make it real for people who are watching. You take the words off of the page and fill them with something genuine. And you have to live your life in order to be able to do that.
So, ‘Our Kind of People’, what excited you about jumping into this role with this cast?
LG: The novel first. I read it so many years ago and I was intrigued by this circle of people. It stuck with me. I have friends who live this life, they vacation in the Vineyards. I’d heard about it but I didn’t really understand it until I got to college (et Howard) and all that. It’s so often that we, as actors, read things and they’re just ‘ok’ but then there are times when things come across your desk and they’re amazing. That’s what this was. I already had a relationship with Lee Daniels, Karen, and Tasha Smith. I just knew I had to be part of it. I called Tasha and text Lee like “I need a shot.” The rest is history.
I got a chance to talk to one of your other cast mates, Morris Chestnut, about longevity in this business for Black artists. There are so many ebbs and flows. What can you say about your journey thus far and what are you most proud of?
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LG: Oh man, it’s been a beautiful journey. I’ve been blessed to keep a job but as an actor, you’re constantly worried that this may be the last job. You worry about your stability. You worry about being able to take care of your family. I think that’s my drive. We get so many ‘nos’- and when we get the ‘yes’—it’s kinda like a breath of fresh air—but you’re hoping it won’t be the last. You’re constantly on the go and on the move working to get your next project.
We also spoke about the power of being able to say ‘no’ and walk away from a project for something greater in your life. Have you had times like that?
LG: My situation has been more so for my children. I had to turn down a project when my wife was pregnant with my daughter and they couldn’t guarantee that I’d be home for her birth. That’s not an option for me, I needed to be there. It shot in Atlanta, was a great project and was something that I really wanted to be part of but it wasn’t more important than being present for the birth of my daughter. In those moments I just ask myself what means more in that moment. Of course, my career is everything to me but I do this for my family. Without them, there is no me.
Tell me about your character on the show, Tyrique, audiences have been falling in love with him.
LG: Tyrique is a driven man. He’s really a good man who cares about his family. He doesn’t come from this circle of people but he’s worked his way in this circle and he’s fallen in love with this woman with whom he shares a commonality of pain. He sees a lot of himself in Angela and feels the need to help her. There’s a lot that happens between them and a lot of secrets he carries.
You were definitely one of the first people in the public eye to truly give us an inside look at your life away from the screen—whether it was your photography or your art collections—you really have never shied away from letting us in. How do you continue to show fans more about your personal life while keeping things sacred?
LG: I’m just a real person. I’m an open book. You choose what you share and you can’t give it all. But I do give a lot while still protecting what’s precious to me. I enjoy pouring into my family and loving them. That’s something that I’m not going to hide. I get joy about posting my wife and my kids because that’s my life. And that’s just a little view of it. That’s just who I am and I can’t be any other way.
What do you think your legacy is at this point and how do you want to add to it?
LG: I just want to be remembered as a positive Black man. I want to be someone that my kids can be proud of and my wife can be proud of. I want to leave good, entertaining work out there whether it be film, TV or my photography. I want to be remembered as someone who always gave back because when I was growing up in Oakland, CA, I needed positive people around me and I want to be that person. That’s why I’m so into mentorship, giving back to my university and my hometown. That’s what matters to me.