An acclaimed actor is getting his well-deserved flowers while touching on his motivation and dedication to prioritizing his mental health as a Black man.
Brian Tyree Henry is the subject of ESSENCE’s recently launched bi-weekly online cover story series “Of The Essence” and he’s reflecting on his career journey and its exciting happenings to writer Rivéa Ruff.
Included in those happenings is of course his Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his role in Causeway making him the only Black male actor to receive an Academy Award nomination this award season.
In Causeway, Henry plays James Aucoin who’s described as “an auto mechanic alienated from his family and disconnected from the community after suffering the loss of his young nephew and his left leg in a grisly collision on the New Orleans bridge of the same name.” Henry said that bringing the character to life on screen was a way for him to truly vent and fully face the loss of his mother, Willow Dean Kearse, who passed away in 2016.
Speaking on his portrayal of James Aucoin in the film, he said it, “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.
The star, 40, also added that he wants to ensure that you never know what his next move is in his acting career.
“I always want to tip people’s minds on a little bit of an axis, skew their vision a little bit, because I don’t ever want people to think they have me pegged.”
See additional quotes from Brian Tyree Henry’s “Of The Essence” cover story below.
His motivation as an actor
“I do this for every tone of Black man there is, every shape of Black man there is. For every Black man that loves however they want to love. That’s why I do this.”
“The way that I learned to hold my head up the very first time in my life was from a Black educator, a Black woman who saw me walking around with my head down… I remember her pulling me aside and literally lifting my chin up and saying, ‘You need to walk with your head up.’”
Prioritizing mental health
“I never want to confuse acting for therapy. This is therapeutic, but therapy is therapy. And I want to encourage as many people as possible, especially Black people, to go to therapy. Our mental health is so important, but we’re often told that we don’t deserve that, we’re often told that we can’t have that, but we can. Self-care for us is so important.”
“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. Honestly, just bearing your heart and saying, ‘Hey, I don’t have all the answers–Hey, I actually need someone to tend to this wound,’ it actually brings about a greater strength.”