With roles in the Oscar-winning Selma and on Fox’s megahit series Empire, Trai Byers has clearly stepped beyond Hollywood’s velvet rope—but the realization is taking a while to sink in. “I’m just a poor boy from Kansas City living my dream,” says the 32-year-old actor.
Though Byers has seen much more of the world than just KC. An Air Force brat, he moved often with his family—including, in 1989, to the Philippines. “We lived two miles from a dormant volcano, Mount Pinatubo,” he says. “All of a sudden it woke up, and 24 hours before it exploded we were evacuated with nothing but the clothes on our backs. It was very chaotic.”
“Chaotic” also describes the life of Byers’ Empire character, Andre, the power-hungry, bipolar son of a music mogul, played by Terrence Howard. By odd coincidence, Byers actually worked with Howard as a teen, as an extra on Boycott, and recalls watching him, “not knowing someday I’d be playing his son.”
And though Byers yearns to get back to film, for right now, he says, “I’m having the time of my life.”
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