You've seen his face, and now Tyler Lepley is ensuring you remember his name! From getting his start on Tyler Perry's crime drama–inspired soap opera The Haves and the Have Nots to landing leading roles in two of the hottest shows out right now (P-Valley and Harlem), the Pennsylvania native is meticulously working his way to the top of everyone's "need to know" lists and our hearts.
And to celebrate his success with the Season 2 release of Harlem, I sat down with Tyler to talk about the Prime Video series, ditching his law degree to pursue acting, and why he holds Black love to such a high standard.
1. What has been your favorite behind-the-scenes moment with the Harlem cast?
My favorite behind-the scenes moment is when we were blessed enough to have a birthday on set. They always bring a cake out. It was my birthday on March 24. We were filming the first season, and I was actually shooting on the day. They got me a cake and they got me my favorite bottle. This is really a family outside of work.
Oh yeah? What's your favorite bottle?
At the time, it was Casamigos. I drank that to the point It tastes like water. I need to switch that up.
2. Did you and Meagan Good get together off screen to build that chemistry we saw on screen? If so, what did you do?
We didn't do anything specific, per se, but we do run lines at times off set. We go out and have drinks with the girls and whatnot. So, we do have a relationship off set, which I feel like wasn't forced at all. It was natural. And it did lead to us developing a real sense of chemistry, so that when the cameras are on, it's just easy.
3. Do you have a Harlem group chat? If so, describe everyone’s texting style.
No, I don't. I'm sure the girls have a group chat. I don't have a group chat with all five of them, but I do talk to them through text messages and DMs all the time. We are really a big family, especially me and Jerrie [Johnson]. Me and Jerrie are always like — cuz she's from Philly, as well, so we got that funny laugh. We're like two peas in a pod.
4. Do you agree with Ian’s decision to follow his heart and pursue Camille, even though it meant breaking someone else's heart?
I do. When it comes to the tug-of-war between what our heart feels and what our minds think, I'm always gonna go with what the heart feels. I'm not saying I'm stupid and I don't have a brain, but I feel like when it comes to passion and as we're in process trying to figure out who we are and what we stand for in life, the heart is truly going to be the compass that takes you to where you know you have to go. So, even if you have to go against the grain to follow it, in my opinion, I say follow the heart every time!
I love that! Ultimately, what do you hope fans take away from this season?
I would say this new season of Harlem is something that you definitely don't want to miss! It's absolutely must-see TV. It's just important to watch — it's a treat to see how these characters and all of these relationships redefine themselves. Of course, you see the same four core women, you see myself, me and Camille, you see the same Harlem, but the relationship between ourselves and with others really redefines itself. So even the same individuals mean something completely different.
5. What is the best dating advice you’ve ever received? And how have you used it in your own life?
I don't ask for too much advice dating-wise. I've been in different relationships and have had some be beneficial in this area and some be beneficial in this area, and I was just being super responsible. There was a whole different array of reasons why I've been in relationships. But I remember my mom told me one time, when she saw me really happy recently, she kind of just pulled me aside and said, "You know, I just love where you're at — seeing you this happy." She said, "Always follow that. Always follow your heart to whatever really makes you happy. It's okay to be happy." Momma always got a few words for me.
6. Speaking of relationships, you met your girlfriend Miracle Watts on the set of P-Valley. What first attracted you to her, and now that you know her better, what do you find most attractive about her now?
I think what attracted me to her the most is the same thing that attracted me to this role, which is we all love a certain gaiety, or a certain cheerfulness, or a shiny exterior. She's a beautiful woman. And, you know, Harlem has Tracy Oliver and Meagan Good, and it's Amazon...you know, the shiny packages. Underneath that there's like a complexity that I look for in anything that I involve myself with, whether it's a role or whether it's a relationship. Just that juxtaposition of who she was; yes, she's this one way on the surface, but underneath that is something that I need, something that I can connect with, and something that will feed me for the long run.
I'm saying the same thing with Harlem. It's not just a show I'm coming on to smile on the big screen and collect some money. It's something that I really have a passion for and something that I really believe in. I love that Ian is this man of process, trying to figure out who he is and what he stands for, because that's who I am. I feel like we all have a sense of that and who we are as humans.
7. On both Harlem and P-Valley, we get to see Black love explored in all its forms. Describe what Black love means to you.
Black love is everything to me! It's something I strive for every day and I think it's necessary to feed your soul. As strong as I am as the leader of my family and the only child, like, I can't do it alone. And it's not something I want to [do alone]. I'm 35, and in my experience, I found that even with success, it really doesn't mean anything if I don't have someone to share it with, or that significant other. As I point that idea towards my family, this is all part of the love that we cultivate every single day. I prefer to do it in that space, as opposed to outside of it. Even though it can be done, that's not how I choose to do it. [Black love] is something that's necessary, for sure.
8. What has been the most rewarding and the most challenging part about working on P-Valley?
I would say the most challenging part has to be the specificity that's necessary to bring that thing to life. It takes about three weeks and some change to shoot one episode. I think this next season, Season 3, we're scheduled for eight months to do 10 episodes. The accent's gotta be specific. So the grueling part is probably just the hours of specificity it takes to bring that thing to life. I would say the most rewarding part is, again, to showcase that juxtaposition of a character. When we met Diamond in the pilot episode, when he was there with Keyshawn/Mississippi, she's being abused. He's trying to protect her by killing her baby daddy, and in the same scene after she declines, he rocks the same baby to sleep. He was about to kill the baby's dad and now he's gonna rock the baby to sleep. So you see this killer and this teddy bear in the same character. There's such a human quality to that, and that's probably been the most rewarding thing to showcase, because on paper, Diamond is just this big, strong, burly character. But he's so much more than that. That's probably the most rewarding thing, to showcase what a real man is, not just [who he is] on the surface.
9. What’s one role fans would be surprised you auditioned for but didn’t get?
The first thing that comes to mind: I remember when I was screen-testing for Harlem. I had the chemistry read with Meagan. I made it past the initial audition and it was time to bring back, like, the final five that they thought could do this. They're like, "Let's give them a chemistry read and figure out who's got the best chemistry with Meagan." I remember at the same time I was doing a screen test for the first spinoff of Power — Power Book II: Ghost. I was blessed to be in a position where I had a choice of which one I wanted to do. I went with Harlem and I'm happy about it. Hat's off to 50 Cent and everything he's got going on over with the Power universe. I watch it faithfully. As a fan, I love what they're doing. I wouldn't change my choice, but I would probably say that's something that fans would be surprised to know, because I could have been on there.
Wow, that's wild! I can definitely see you on that show!
Listen, I may not be on that show, but I'm still gonna circle back. Me and 50 are gonna work together for sure.
10. Speak it into existence! That kind of leads me into my next question: If you could guest-star on any show — currently airing or not — which one would it be?
Oh, man, that's a great question! So many! I will probably say, just to stay in that realm, I love what BMF is doing. I just love what Lil Meech, 50 Cent, and all of them are doing over there. I love that show! I would love to guest-star on there. Or Ozark, if I wanted to go over in that realm. Oh my gosh, I love what they're doing over there! As for a show that is not on the air anymore, if I could go back in time, I would try to figure out a way to get on Martin. That's my favorite show of all time.
Love that! Who's your favorite Martin character?
I mean, an easy one to say is Sheneneh Jenkins. She's so funny. But I gotta go with the little snotty kid who walks around on his knees...Roscoe! But if I had to say one, I would say Jerome. Jerome in the house, watch ya mouth! Yeah, he's probably my favorite.
11. Another side of you that people may not know is that you have a degree in criminal justice. Do you see yourself ever pursuing a career in that field in the future?
Not at this point. I wanted to be a lawyer before I found out how expensive law school was gonna be [laughs]. I can afford it now, but luckily for me I was brave enough to follow my heart. That's not where my heart was. That's where my mind was. It made sense on paper. My family would have been proud of it, but I wouldn't have been satisfied with it. So, even though it's something I spent a lot of time on, and I'm happy that I got my degree, I'm very happy that I chased my passion to get to a place where I feel happy in life.
12. What has been the wildest rumor you've ever heard about yourself?
I had to eventually block them and restrict them, because it was just DM after DM after DM after DM. And he giving side-by-side pictures, and this whole theory of why I was Drake, and that we switched faces. "Drake is Tyler Lepley and Tyler Lepley is Drake, and this is why." There was this whole synopsis and a whole thing to prove why. I said man, let me block this mother fucker. It was a little crazy. They get a little weird out there sometimes. But yeah, that was probably the weirdest rumor I ever heard about myself.
Wow, people are really...dedicated. I have definitely seen the Drake comparisons, though. Do you see the resemblance?
I mean, I see the similarities. You know, we're both lighter skin, like 6' or 6'1" with a beard and similar haircut. I haven't gotten as much because Drake recently got braids. So, yeah, the look is a little different. I don't get it as much, but I definitely heard it.
13. When’s the last time you were starstruck?
You know, I just see everybody in their human form. I love everybody. I love how most of us have had a humble beginning. I see us for putting one shoe on at a time, so I don't really get starstruck, but I do have my own moments. Like we're all, you know, we're all big fans of somebody. I remember when I was working on The Haves and the Have Nots, and Ms. Oprah Winfrey decided to come down and bless us with her presence because the show was on the Oprah Winfrey Network at the time. And man, she just came down and she had a little sweatsuit on, no makeup, hair was done, but she was just very much like one of us. I was just so blown away. First of all, here she is right in front of me. But then how someone who's all the way up here in everybody's view, is humble enough to come and sit right down here, right with us. It just gave me such a good example of how to stay once I get up there, you know? So, that's probably my starstruck moment: Oprah Winfrey.
14. You may not get starstruck too often, but is there an actor on your bucket list that you're eager to work with? If so, what would the project be about?
When I get a chance to work with Denzel Washington and when I get a chance to work with Michael B. Jordan and then, rest in peace, I always wanted to get a chance to work with Chadwick Boseman. I was blessed enough to know Chadwick. We used to joke about that. But in a different lifetime, we'll see each other again on the ice. For this go around, I have to say, Denzel is number one because I just strive to be like him on the screen. And then, you know, Michael B. Jordan because he's my peer, someone who's at that level that I strive to be at. I'll be there soon.
I just love what he's doing as someone who's my age. I'm a big fan of both of those men. I don't know what the scenario would be, but I would love to see it penned by someone like a Tracy Oliver. You see all three of us and you probably immediately think, like, drama, you know? Maybe we do something that has a little more lightness to it, That'd be a cool little team to ride for. Let's speak it into what's gonna happen and let's get it.
Okay, let's add that to the list of things we're speaking into existence.
Oh, it's gonna happen. Let's get it!
15. Lastly, describe a perfect day for Tyler.
I gotta be honest, I'd probably wake up with breakfast already made for me. Might have my bacon, eggs, grits with cheese on the side. Maybe I'd smoke a little something. I would get my reading done. Maybe play a little guitar. I'd work out, then I'd take my girl to lunch, pick my kids up from school and have daddy time. Then I'd put them to bed, go to the studio, bring that dream back into fruition. Make love to my woman and then fall asleep on the California king.
Damn, that's a nice day! Matter of fact, I'm gonna speak that into existence for tomorrow.