Hold tight to what motivates you. This industry can stop being fun really quick. One too many “no’s” will have you contemplating going back to school and picking a new trade. But you can’t walk away from what you love just because it’s tough; you must find ways to keep it fun and stay motivated. No matter what your 24 hours looks like, you must start the day with you.
As a part of our series about pop culture’s rising stars, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Terayle Hill.
Truly one of the most multi-hyphenated talents in Hollywood today, actor, singer, producer and philanthropist Terayle Hill is the one to watch heading into the near year. Currently starring as one of the leads in STARZ “Step Up,” now in its third season, we would love to arrange an interview with you and Terayle to discuss his hit series, as well as his BET+ Christmas movie A WESLEY CHRISTMAS which is now available on the streaming platform and will be premiering on the BET Network during the Thanksgiving weekend. Terayle is also the co-founder and co-owner of Everybodies Inc. a multi-branch media enterprise that creates and produces original series, music apparel and more.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in Moreno Valley, CA. I was a very energetic and motivated as a kid but there weren’t too many places, I could invest my energy as a child. Moreno Valley wasn’t a very big city; it’s more of a desert-town. I didn’t grow up seeing celebrities, musicians, or anything of the sort. Outside of the Moreno Valley Mall and a couple local parks, there really wasn’t too much to do. It was mainly my mother, my older brother, and my two little sisters up until high school when my stepfather moved to the city and brought a couple of his kids. That’s also when creativity and the possibility of working in the arts started to plant itself in my heart.
My mother has an incredible voice. My brother was a very talented trombone player and eventually would go to college for Opera. My little sisters can also sing very well; both building a reputation singing at school and church events. I was more of the public speaker because I lost the ability to sing when I hit puberty. So, if I wasn’t at school working with an organization, I was home writing music, poetry, or short stories. My stepfather had also worked in the tv and film space for a period of time and could sing very well. He was the first person I met who had every experienced a television set and he was also the first person to expose me to a recording studio. From that point forward, my life became about recording music with my friend Kent in his bedroom and whatever responsibilities I had at school.
I always had leadership positions under my belt while attending Canyon Springs High School. I was the president of my graduating class for a couple of my high school years, and also split time with 7 other organizations in and around scholastics and athletics. By my senior year, I had made a name for myself as a musician, and I was accepted to Clark Atlanta University on the spot at The Black College Expo in January of 2012. At this point, I still never considered being in Television and Film; however, my plan was to make the most out of Atlanta and lean into music and see what pathways would open up while I was in Atlanta. College was my ticket out of Moreno Valley.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
When I started my freshman year at Clark Atlanta University, I was primarily focused on music. But one-too-many negative experiences, mixed with just the right amount of insecurity lead me to put music to the side. I never stopped writing music because I always felt I would eventually make a living ghostwriting one day. But for the most part, I decided to focus primarily on being a director and a writer instead.
At the start of my Sophomore year, a web-series called “College Boyfriends” created by Tina Shakiyah (CAU student filmmaker at the time), was hosting auditions in the Student Center for their second season. I had been hearing about the show because I spent a lot of time in the Mass Media Arts Department and would see Tina and the show’s Producer’s Brittany Larde and Donte Rose often. I had never seriously attempted acting before — but the performer in me felt safe enough to give it a shot that day.
I ended up booking a role on the show and that became my acting training. Most of my college experience was filming “College Boyfriends” after class. I felt myself taking it more and more seriously every time Tina would call action. Episodes would come out bi-weekly throughout the semester and we began developing a consistent fanbase. Eventually, nothing else mattered but acting. It didn’t matter to me that I wasn’t trained or wasn’t polished; I loved being used to tell stories as a performer again. The fact that I was comfortable in being where I was skill-wise and getting better over time was confirmation that God wanted this for me too.
Fast forward to a month before graduation. I got an audition for a new show called “The Quad” on BET. Ironically, it was a show centered around an HBCU and it was literally being shot on campus. It ended up being my first major network booking and I was able to finish the Pilot and graduate a couple weeks later. The day I graduated, I made the commitment to stay in Atlanta and pursue acting full-time. To this day, It is just as much as passion of mine as anything else I’ve ever creatively identified myself with.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career as an actor?
As I mentioned, I’ve been writing music since high school. I loved it for a long time but there was a period in my life where I made peace with not sharing that side of myself with anyone. It just never seemed to go right. But life lessons revealed that I should always invest time into my passions because life can change in the blink of an eye. You should do what you love while you’re here; no matter what it brings you.
I had been on the show “Step Up” since the pilot episode. My role initially wasn’t as big as it is now but in the middle of Season 2, the production asked me if I could write music. Luckily, I was about 2 months into getting back into writing music at the time when they asked so I felt comfortable saying “yes”. Since then, they continued to trust me with that responsibility. It’s a “full circle” moment that I find interesting, ironic, and a major blessing. God works in very mysterious ways.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I got my first agent when I was a junior in college. At the time, I hadn’t known how to do audition tapes. So, my first ever audition tape consisted of me calling 3 of my friends over to my dorm and I literally shot the whole scene they sent; angle by angle — with a Galaxy S4. It was a full-blown production I cut in iMovie, and it took 3 hours to edit it together. It was also during that audition process that I learned that casting doesn’t follow up with you unless you get a callback. Needless to say, I never heard back. But at least my friends helped me move my dorm’s furniture back in place.
Tell us about your current projects Step Up on STARZ and your new BET+ film A WESLEY CHRISTMAS. How does it feel to be starring in a series and a film at the same time?
Starring in both “Step Up” and “A Wesley Christmas” at the same time is insane to me! There are literally two billboards up right now as we speak! It’s a dream come true! The best part about these projects happening at the same time is all the love, affirmation, and support I’ve gotten from people who’ve watched these projects. I don’t want to spoil either of them, but I will say that Marquise is the opposite of Todd Wesley in every way. So, it’s mind-blowing to be watching those projects premiere just hours of each other.
Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path in acting, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?
To anyone who may feel daunted by the feeling of failure, I think they must first define what success is to them. It’s hard to fail unless you are competing against your own expectations. I have completely emptied my cup as far as expectations are concerned. At this point, I just really love what I do. And by the grace of God, I have been asked to do it throughout the years more and more often. But if I wasn’t actively working on camera on a massive scale, my love for filmmaking would still have me investing my time and energy in some independent capacity. So, my best advice is to understand what you want for yourself so well that there is nothing in the world can or can’t offer you that will sway you from committing to something you call a passion.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
From a consumer perspective, people obviously would like to relate to the media they consume. No matter the genre, people want to feel seen and feel like they are part of the story being told. Representation is everything. That’s why it’s important to have representation above the line AND below the line in production. We need more voices in front of the camera and behind the scenes to ensure the story is well rounded, grounded, and accurate.
From a cultural perspective, the media and content that the youth are digesting now will directly affect the world we live in 20 years from now. We should ensure that there enough positive and progressive images on these children’s tablets and iPhones because television programing is a form of mental conditioning. We have a chance to condition the youth for a better future by having a rounded group of voices with the right intentions moving on behalf of the culture.
And from a business perspective, Streaming is the future and the now. We’re on track to have more subscription-based platforms then cable channels in the next decade. The one’s that will not survive are the ones that are not plentiful in their range of content.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
Nothing is to be taken personal in pursuit of your dreams.
- Especially when it comes to acting, you can’t let the losses go to your head. You have to find a way to find motivation out of every scenario and every encounter in order to persevere through the intangibles of dream-chasing. It doesn’t always come down to who has the most talent or who worked the hardest and you can’t let things not going the way you planned as an excuse to step back from anything you say you love. You cheat yourself of what is already enroute and you also cheat whoever is supposed to be blessed by your gift if you don’t see it through.
- You will always be your biggest obstacle. The moment you realize that is the moment you’ve taken the lead. Everything always comes back to you. It’s easy to blame your boss, or your bully, or casting directors, or whoever and whatever for how you go in life. But ask yourself what you could’ve done better or how you could’ve brought more to the situation more often and you may find that there are many things you can do to improve your chances of achieving whatever you’re looking to achieve. If you think you can do no wrong, then you won’t get any better.
- If you don’t mean it, it won’t happen. Faith without work is dead. Very rarely do you see people achieve what they seek to achieve by simply saying it. Manifestation itself does not work without action. All things work in your favor when your actions match your words.
- Hold tight to what motivates you. This industry can stop being fun really quick. One too many “no’s” will have you contemplating going back to school and picking a new trade. But you can’t walk away from what you love just because it’s tough; you must find ways to keep it fun and stay motivated. No matter what your 24 hours looks like, you must start the day with you. I love going to a basketball court as early as 5 am sometime just to catch my own rebounds and listen to hip-hop for the first 2 hours of the day. It’s a great workout, it’s a great way to track progress, and it’s a great way to stay grounded as yourself. I’ve had a basketball in my hands and hip-hop in my ears since I was a young. So, whether or not I ever make a dime from either, shouldn’t keep me from doing what makes me happy. Keep things that make you happy in your routine for times when things aren’t necessarily going the way you want so that you can maintain balance.
- Don’t “grow up” too much. Realistically, there are many things we want to achieve in our life that we may never have. But a child’s mind believes anything is possible. So within the realm of realism, you should still believe in the impossible. As an adult, you will eventually have many responsibilities. You may only have on a couple hours a day to dream but in that couple of hours, shut out all of the negativity and dream like your future depends on it. Never lose that chase and that belief that you can make it and eventually you will. Don’t let life age you out of your interest.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Rest and reset. 2022 was all about creating a sustainable workflow and a new habit or productivity. I experienced extreme burnout while I was in New York doing a play earlier this year. That forced me to take “rest days” and “meditation” more seriously. As entertainers, we will run for YEARS just to get to (what feels like) “the starting line.” Once you get to a place where things consistently start working in your favor, you want to try and kick things up a notch and go even harder. But the reality is, a car doesn’t run on E; I don’t care how well you take care of it. You must rest and recover physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually to make the most of the opportunities to come.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I am blessed to say that God trusted my brother Ivan Gaskin and I with a movement of our very own that we believe will change the world, “Everybodies Inc.” Everybodie Inc. is a multi-media enterprise centered around giving artist and creatives a voice; as well as telling stories that move the culture forward. The company has multiple branches that can stand alone as their own companies; but can also work very well in unison within the others. For example, we have a division that is an online network called “The Everybodies Network” on YouTube that features various TV Shows and Podcast that were all independently produced through our media umbrella. We also have a film production studio called “Everybodies Originals” that we utilize to shoot those projects; as well as projects for clients around the country and collaborators who’d like to work directly with us.
Through Everybodies Inc., Ivan and I have been able to give out over 20 scholarships and grants, release two musical projects under Everybodies Music Group, and employ close to 200 filmmakers and creatives since we’ve launched in February of 2021. We’ve also partnered with a quite a few organizations; all geared toward scholastics, creativity, and new opportunities for high school and college students as well. As of today, we are currently releasing Season 2 of our spoken-word series, “Speak Up” and we are slated to release two new projects in January 2023. For more information, feel free to head to EverybodiesInc.com
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I will have to give this one to my stepfather, Big Archie. I could name a bunch of people, but Big Archie instilled those creative seeds in me at a very pivotal time. I was at the age where everything looked like a road I could take. At that time, I had some folks around me that were trying to introduce me to an element of life that caused me to say goodbye to some childhood friends entirely too soon. He came at the perfect time because who knows what else I would’ve gotten in to instead of the arts. In a city with limited resources, it’s easy to get involved in things that put your future in jeopardy and I am grateful that I met someone who made it cool to do what makes you happy instead of what everyone would like to see you do. To this day, my stepfather still sings with a group of guys he’s known since he was a kid almost every weekend. That makes me want to go hard for my dreams. I love what I do and that’s worth more than any dollar figure that comes from it.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
The most profound quote I’ve ever heard is: “Be the same person at the top, that you are at the bottom.” My brother Ivan Gaskin, co-owner of Everybodies Inc. said that to me in a time where I really needed it. That quote as given meaning to everything that hasn’t made sense to in the last couple years. It doesn’t matter what we as people have to offer; sometime the world will throw a curveball and there’s nothing we as people can do about it. I’ve found that keeping a steady head, no matter what’s happening, has been the most effective change in my life. It’s easier to navigate acting and entrepreneurialism without expectations.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
I would love to have lunch with Lebron James. Tim Grover wrote an incredible book called “Relentless” which is tied with my favorite books of all time. In this book, Mr. Grover give’s context to what a “cooler”, a “closer”, and a “cleaner” is in the world of professional mindsets and work ethics. Basically, whatever you do in this life, you want to do it as a cleaner. Mr. Grover worked with Michael Jordan, Dwayne Wade, Kobe Bryant; basically, all of the greats. But Mr. Grover says that you only need to be a cleaner in your professional life. That hat should come off when you leave the arena (or whatever you do for a living.)
Lebron James has been able to achieve cleaner-status in multiple places in his life. From being present as a father, opening a school, sending thousands to college, multiple NBA championships, and numerous successful businesses; I’d like to sit and have a conversation with the only person I’ve seen successfully turn being a “cleaner” into a lifestyle.
How can our readers follow you online?
People can follow me @Terayle_ on basically all of my social media pages and people can follow my business page online as well; @Everybodies.Inc. Subscribe to The Everybodies Network and Everybodies Music Group on YouTube and please head to EverybodiesInc.com for more information on the company and updates on new releases!
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
Rising Star Terayle Hill On The Five Things You Need To Shine In The Entertainment Industry was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.