NBC’s This Is Us raked in 11 Emmy nominations on July 13 when the nominees were announced. Theatre veterans Ron Cephas Jones (as William) and Denis O’Hare (Jessie) are among those recognized, as is lead and theatre newcomer (with her benefit performance of Fat Pig at MCC Theater) Chrissy Metz. In the same category as O’Hare (Guest Actor in a Drama Series) is first-time Emmy nominee Brian Tyree Henry—but theatre fans know him better as The General.
Henry made his Broadway debut as part of the original company of The Book of Mormon, creating the role of The General. (Watch his performance here alongside Tony nominee Andrew Rannells at the 2011 Tony Awards.)
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But before that, Henry earned his MFA from the Yale School of Drama before coming to New York and actually met This Is Us co-star Sterling K. Brown in the New York theatre community. The two worked alongside each other on a workshop of a play by Tarell Alvin McCraney.
Henry went on to earn a Helen Hayes Award nomination for his work in McCraney’s The Brother Sister Plays. The actor appeared in Talk About Race at the Public and in Romeo and Juliet at New York Stage and Film. But Henry also worked on musicals before Book of Mormon, appearing in the Public’s The Fortress of Solitude, which also received an original cast recording.
The Public is also where Henry first crossed paths with Ron Cephas Jones for a workshop. With This Is Us, Henry’s Public theatre cred and musical talents combined for the role of Ricky, William’s cousin, cheerleader, and bandmate. In the episode “Memphis,” audiences learned about William’s past through the relationship (past and fast-forwarded to the present) with Ricky—and audiences even got to hear Henry’s pipes as he took on the role of the musician.
Henry’s career continues to blossom on screen, as a series regular on Atlanta and a guest on How to Get Away With Murder starring Tony, Emmy, and Oscar winner Viola Davis. Next, he looks to the silver screen with upcoming movie projects, such as Hotel Artemus (with Jodie Foster and Sterling K. Brown), Irreplaceable You (with Christopher Walken and Gayle Rankin), White Boy Rick (with Matthew McConaughey), and Widows (with Viola Davis, Cynthia Errivo, and Carrie Coon).
Tune in to the 69th Annual Emmy Awards September 17 on CBS.