Actress Joy Bryant was born and raised in the boogie-down Bronx to a single teenage mother and raised by her grandmother. She earned a scholarship to Yale University after high school. Her modeling career began in the mid-1990s and she appeared in advertisements for Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Gap and Victoria’s Secret.
Currently Bryant is starring as Marie Wallace in the new ABC drama “For Life,” a legal drama created by Hank Steinberg and executive produced by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson.
The series is inspired by the life of Isaac Wright Jr. who was imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. In “For Life,” we follow the story of Aaron Wallace (Nicholas Pinnock), who becomes a lawyer litigating cases for other inmates while fighting to overturn his life sentence.
Bryant is perhaps best known for her role as Jasmine Trussel in the critically acclaimed NBC series “Parenthood,” a role she portrayed for the series’ entire six seasons before its finale in 2015. She has also starred in the Amazon series “Good Girls Revolt,” in which she portrayed civil rights activist Eleanor Holmes Norton. Her other credits include HBO’s “Girls” and Fox’s “Rosewood.”
On the film side, Bryant made her acting debut opposite Beyoncé in Robert Townsend’s film “Carmen: A Hip Hopera,” and was also in “About Last Night,” “Hit and Run,” “Bobby,” “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” “The Skeleton Key” and Denzel Washington’s directorial debut, “Antwone Fisher.”
We caught up with Joy Bryant at a Zoom press junket to discuss the ABC series
Amsterdam News: Good afternoon. It’s raining in Harlem [New York].
Joy Bryant: I was raised in New York.
AMN: The Bronx. The boogie-down Bronx. Tell us about your role in the series “For Life.” What do you like about your character [Marie Wallace]? I assume that you like her?
JB: (laughing) I better like her! We are going into our second season. Where do I start? Well, it’s interesting because she represents so many women whose partners are incarcerated or formerly incarnated. It’s an honor to be able to portray her and all of her struggles and bring light to her reality. I drew on the experiences of two of my close girlfriends who, at the time, their partners were incarcerated for a long period. These are old friends. I was friends with them before they even met their partners.
AMN: That’s an interesting and authentic perspective, for sure.
JB: To go through that journey with them [to witness] the sacrifices they made and the difficulties that they endured while their partners were away. And the re-adjustment of life on the outside again that they went through with them. I was able to lean into that insight to play Marie.
AMN: I can only imagine. That’s a lot of gritty material for an actress like yourself to work with.
JB: Once I got into it personally, what playing Marie has meant to me, or how it’s affected my life, my character is in her 40s and she has a daughter who is a teenage mother—I was raised by my grandmother. I was raised by my grandmother. My mother was a teenage mother. I didn’t do the math of my grandmother’s age until recently. She was my age. I am 46 and my grandmother was that age when I was born. Playing Marie has helped me see my grandmother in a way that I never did before. Instead of looking at her as [just my] nana. I started seeing her as Lorraine, the woman which I never really did.
AMN: That’s beautiful.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.