Joy Bryant is an anomaly. The 37 year-old actress grew up in the Bronx, went to Yale (on a full academic scholarship, thank you very much), played ice hockey, left college to model (Tommy Hilfiger and Victoria’s Secret) and now co-stars in “Parenthood”, one of the hottest TV series on NBC. Oh, and she plays Bradley Cooper’s romantic interest in Hit and Run, which hits theaters August 22.
And if that’s not enough, girlfriend will host her own YouTube series about snowboarding. (Kevin Hart has already started the jokes.)
EBONY.com talks with gorgeous actress about the film, the show and why she dances to the beat of her own drum.
EBONY: Did Dax Shepard (her co-star from Parenthood who also wrote and directed Hit and Run) muscle you into saying yes to this or what?
Joy Bryant: He didn’t have to! All he had to do was knock on my trailer door, which is what he did.
EBONY: So it was a quick yes? What did you like about the project?
JB: Aside from the fact that he’s a really good friend of mine, he wrote a really, really awesome script, so that’s where it all starts. None of us who he asked did it because we were doing him a favor … everyone did it because he wrote a kick-ass script. It is a no-brainer. So when your homie does something so dope and asks you to be a part of it, you’re like, ‘Duh!’ It’s not even a question. He could’ve asked me to play any part in that movie, small, big, whatever, and I would’ve done it because, you know, it all starts on the page.
EBONY: This film is very unfiltered. Tell me a little bit about your character in the film.
JB: Oh, my character Neve is with Bradley Cooper, but you find out that she was once with Dax’s character. She’s still kind of on the other side of the tracks. She’s kind of like a bad ass. She’s just stinky, got a little attitude. She’s fun.
EBONY: Hey, you’re playing opposite Bradley Cooper. That ain’t a bad gig at all.
JB: Ain’t a bad gig! I was not mad.
EBONY: It really is the end of the summer talker film too ….
JB: Yes! It’s this romantic comedy, but wrapped up in this awesome car chase movie. And it is in no way shape or form, cheesy or corny at all. It’s just, it’s grounded, it’s funny, it’s entertaining and people are just going to have a great time and go to the movie theater, sit down and have a blast for however long the movie lasts. You know? It doesn’t take itself too seriously. I actually think it’s like a great date movie. Women are going to really respond to the love story angle and dudes are going to be like, ‘Yeah!’ There are cars!’
EBONY: New season of Parenthood starts next month. What can you tell us?
JB: I don’t know what’s gonna come up! I’m not even joking. It’s crazy. I’m shooting another episode this week and I don’t even have the script yet. Like, we don’t know.
EBONY: So they keep you guys a little bit in the dark like they’re keeping fans in the dark. Is that what’s happening?
JB: Oh yeah. I don’t even know. I’m like, ‘we getting married?!’ Cause even last year I was like, ‘we getting married?! I need to know we’re getting married.’ Then they were like: ‘you need to pick out your wedding dress.’ I’m like, ‘For what?’
EBONY: What’s so great about that show, is it really feels like it reflects what our real lives are like in 2012 and beyond …
JB: The Parenthood fans are awesome. They are really in it. They are so in it. I mean, to the point where people just straight-up call me Jasmine. They grab me, give me a hug, ‘Jasmine! Think about Jabar! What? Think about Jabar! He needs his father!’
EBONY: How has being on that successful of a show changed you?
JB: It’s great to get consistent work and it’s great to work on material that you love and to work with people who you respect and who respect you. And to show up for work every day really happy to be there, like truly. Every time I’m on set I get to play, and I’m also learning, I’m learning a lot about acting and myself and all these things, so I feel like it’s really helping me to be more confident and to grow as an actor. I’m not calling myself some master thespian or something like that, but it’s really helped me because I’m just, I’m flexing that muscle all the time and I’m working with people who are freakin’ top notch, man.
EBONY: You’re also writing. Anything we might see soon?
JB: There are a couple of shorts. My writing partner and I … have our feature that we’re writing and our goal is to finish that. I also have a TV show, an unscripted TV show involving shopping that I’m pitching. I have a web series that is going to air on Youtube on the Conversation channel in September that I’m executive producer of and host of.
EBONY: A talk show?
JB: Kind of. It’s called Across the Board and … I mean, I love snowboarding. It’s me as a host with a guest, like a celebrity, athlete, people like that, and we are doing either surfing, snowboarding, skateboarding or stand-up paddle together and just kinda hanging out and talking. Comedy ensues, like me falling off a skateboard and pulling my hamstring. That happened.
EBONY: How’d you get into snowboarding? Not too many Black folks are doing that.
JB: I’m going to be 38 this year, so when I was growing up, I knew one person that skateboarded and that was the only person! But things are different now. You look down the street and you’ve got Black kids on skateboards. There are more and more kids of color that are on the mountain or even learning…or even surfing. It’s no longer, like, some white boy sh*t.
JB: Yeah. My guests will be of all races and creeds and everything. It’s just this wonderful thing to see that just in my time on this planet, there’s been this cultural exchange and this cultural shift where it’s okay. Black people, we are not this monolithic group, you know? When I was in college—I didn’t get recruited for track but I was gonna be a walk-on -—and instead of running track, I decided to play ice hockey, because I played ice hockey in high school. And I remember the track coach from college being like, ‘Ice hockey? We don’t do that.’ I’m like, ‘Well, I do.’
EBONY: A model who acts, writes and plays ice hockey? It’s almost not fair.
JB: Hey man, you gotta dance to the beat of your own drum.
Kelley L. Carter is an Emmy-award-winning celebrity reporter. You can find her on twitter @kelleylcarter.