"In my personal life, I deal with many levels of bullying": Claws' Kenneth Kynt Bryan on his intrinsic link with Scarlet
For Kenneth, playing Scarlet is the role of a lifetime. He identifies with her struggles and her strengths as he deals with many levels of bullying and gender discrimination daily
Kenneth Kynt Bryan is quite the personality in New Orleans, Florida. But it’s not the only place where the fierce dancer and actor is known for his many talents. He is known for playing Maria on 'Scream Queens', a transgendered hooker on 'Grudge Match' and more recently as 'Scarlet' – a sassy drag queen on TNT’s Claws.
Claws has become increasingly popular and widely acclaimed, owing to the gorgeous beauties taking over the world with their bold sassiness and sharp conviction. Which is why it doesn’t really come as a surprise that the cast members are quite similar to the roles they play on screen. They don’t take trash from anyone and if unnecessarily crossed, they know how to make their way out.
As it turns out, the face behind Scarlet is no different. Speaking exclusively to Meaww, Kenneth – who is an international dance recording artist, dance instructor, actor, fitness instructor and a staunch activist – shares his journey to the silver screen and how he overcame bullying to share screen space with the likes of Robert DeNiro, Matthew McConaughey, Emma Roberts and many more.
Your work in the field of dance has been phenomenal so far; what inspired you to indulge in the art form?
You know, I’ve learned that you can do whatever your heart desires. My teachers taught me that hard work, discipline, dedication, persistence, and attention to detail are the key factors that determine whether or not what you are trying to accomplish will come to fruition. […] I suffered from low self-esteem due to bullying which made me insecure and doubtful as to what was my purpose in life. People laughed at me, harassed me, and called me every filthy name you can think of because of the way I looked. Dancing helped change all that.
I always had a desire to dance but never really took it seriously. It wasn’t until I enrolled at Loyola University New Orleans that my dream of dancing professionally became tangible. Freshman year, I was so curious about ballet that I walked up to a class and Professor Gayle Parmelee stopped me and asked me if I wanted to try her class. The rest is history. I became the first and only student to graduate from Loyola University New Orleans with a special contract Double Major in Communications and Dance. The university only offered a Ballet Minor but allowed me to pursue a full dance degree.
Over the years I have performed for many different dance companies, created choreography, been nominated for awards, featured in films and television shows dancing, taught dance at many schools and institutions throughout New Orleans including teaching at a Loyola University New Orleans and the City of New Orleans. The thing is I never stopped dancing. If I’m not teaching, I'm taking a class, working on choreography for a client, taking a master class or performing. If it were not for my teachers lifting me up when I was down and encouraging me to reach beyond and dream bigger. None of this would be possible.
If you had to pick a favorite genre of dance, which one according to you is the most liberating?
I grew up street dancing, which included break dancing, popping n locking, voguing, and imitating most dance moves I saw watching music videos on BET and MTV. We’d break out old cardboard boxes and lay them out in the driveway to practice our back spins and handstands. I’ve studied and performed many different styles of dance (Salsa, Flamenco, Tap, Contemporary, Jazz, Hip Hop, African, Folkloric, Bollywood, etc.) But honestly, even though I am a classically trained ballet dancer I’ve always found the most liberating dance freestyling movements. Don’t get me wrong, I love putting on my pointe shoes and leaping across the floor, it’s a never-ending love affair, but sometimes I really enjoy just getting down to a banging groove moving to a beat. There is a certain freedom in expressing yourself by allowing your body to move freely without rules or limitations.
TV show Claws - how did that happen? Could you tell us a little bit about your audition process?
My agent received an audition request from Megan Lewis of RPM Casting. It was a live audition for the role of Relevance, which is another character on Claws. I went to audition for the role and when I didn't receive a call back I just assumed I did not book the role. Shortly after, I received another audition request from Lewis. This time it was for the role of Scarlet. So, I went back in and about a week after the audition I got a call from my agent saying that I was going through network approval for the role of Scarlet, while I was working as a feature on Claws in a small pool party scene at Big Daddy’s mansion which was directed by Victoria Mahoney. Talk about being stoked! I almost fainted! In a few days, it was made official. I booked the role of Scarlet.
The auditioning process is very delicate. I say this because it’s all up to you. You are tasked with taking a writer's character and bringing it to life in your own unique and magical way. I study the character from every angle and establish a connection with my life experiences and I research each role thoroughly. It is extremely important to me to envision how my character relates to the others. The rest is up to the powers that be. I believe if a role is meant for you, you will book it. The key is consistency, growth, never giving up learning from mistakes, and constantly trying to improve your artistry.
If you were to describe your character Scarlet in three words, what would they be? How similar are you to her?
Scarlet is grandiloquently unapologetic, witty, and intrinsic. She embodies the frenetic truth of the world around her and is a survivor that stands firmly as a force of nature fighting for her rights to live the American dream without discrimination. I like to think of Scarlet as that edgy over-the-top business-street savvy protective best friend that you wouldn't want as an enemy. You know the glam queen Scarlet got the game on lock but just likes to play the field to see what kind of trouble she can get into. Scarlet has a story to tell which is slowly being unraveled.
For me, playing Scarlet is the role of a lifetime. I identify with her struggles and her strengths. In my personal life, I deal with many levels of bullying and gender discrimination daily. This is such an important role because I believe that I am helping to open the door for future androgynous anomalies that have had hardships and still find the courage to wake up every day and live their lives. There have been too many senseless murders of transgenders and gender non-conforming individuals. The LGBT community has taken devastating losses of epic proportions and I believe we need to take every opportunity possible to educate people and make visible such an underrepresented character role in television and film. This is why Claws is such a vital and important visual experience. The creator and writers have masterfully crafted a show which is an extension of the realities of the world we live in today.
You have worked with the likes of Robert DeNiro; what was that experience like?
Astronomical! Are you kidding me! My mind is still blown. It’s something I’ll never really think actually happened. Grudge Match was my first time auditioning for a film. When I got the call that I booked the role of Transvestite I did my little happy dance. I’ll never forget when director Peter Segal called me on set for our rehearsal. There he was, Mr. DeNiro and across from him in the next jail cell was Sylvester Stallone. I just couldn’t imagine that my first speaking role in a film would be with Robert DeNiro and Sylvester Stallone! Segal introduced me to DeNiro. He was like “This is Bob!”. Words can’t express how I felt at that moment. It was surreal. I kept thinking to myself, ‘This is an American acting legend! Am I really supposed to just call him Bob?’ Well, Bob it was and the rest is history. Trading lines with DeNiro and Stallone gave me the greatest Master Class in acting. It just doesn’t get any better than that. I still get chills thinking about it.
How was your experience of working on Scream Queens like, especially considering it was captained by the brilliant Ryan Murphy?
Oh, my goodness. Working on Scream Queens with Ryan Murphy as director was a monumental milestone in my acting career. It was my first television speaking role for a major network like FOX. Murphy was very fluidic in communicating what he specifically wanted to see happen in the scene. I like the fact that he was extremely friendly, down to earth, and welcoming. You have to understand that I was absolutely terrified! Sometimes when you book a role on a show with a team of well-seasoned actors like Emma Roberts and Niecy Nash it can be quite intimidating, but Murphy made me feel at home. Emma Roberts was truly a doll and pleasure to work with. I also had a chance to work with her in the film “Billionaire Boys Club”. I actually ran into Murphy on set filming a scene for Scream Queens on location at Loyola University New Orleans, after I filmed my scene, and he totally took time out to acknowledge and thank me for my work. Hopefully, I’ll get to work with Murphy again soon.
How do you strike the perfect balance between dance classes, acting and fitness instruction?
There is no particular formula. I just know that I love every aspect of everything thing I do and I apply that love to everything. I set a schedule each week and daily. I go back and forth teaching dance classes, working on film/tv projects, auditioning, performing, modeling, creating choreography for clients, recording new songs, collaborating with DJ/Remixer/Producers worldwide, mentoring youth, taking dance classes or just enjoying my time with my friends. It’s something I’ve done for years now so I’m used to it. I have worked very hard to get to this point in my life. I’m literally dreaming while I’m awake and I love every moment of it.
You are also a cancer survivor; How has that impacted and inspired the work you do?
I’m just so thankful to be alive and well. My cancer was detected early in 2011 and I went through an aggressive chemo and radiation regime. I was enrolled at Tulane University pursuing a Masters Degree in Liberal Arts. While being treated, I still attended classes and trained with my ballet family daily. I had the best doctors at Ocshner Hospital and am forever indebted to them for helping take care of me. It was a very difficult time in my life but I remained vigilant. I have since been cured and have to sustain regular checkups to ensure that the cancer does not return. My work ethic has never changed. I try to live each day like there is no tomorrow. I’ve always believed that god is good all the time and I try to do much as possible to teach our youth and connect with the community through art. This is what I was born to do.