I recently had the opportunity to chat with Myles about his character, the show, and how being a professor has helped inform his acting.
Myles described his character, Leon Grant, as “an everyday kind of blue-collar guy who is trying to provide his family with a stable life. My son is actually one of the witnesses to one of the tragic shootings in the fictional town that takes place in North Carolina.”
Leon may not make his official appearance until Season 1 Episode 3, but Myles likes to think that he’s been there the entire time.
“Leon actually will start his appearance in Episode 3, but we can actually say that since the show has started, and my son has been on air, and I like to encompass all of it together, I’ve been there the entire time,” Myles explained.
The main challenge for Myles when it came to playing his character, Leon, was eventually coming to terms with his own set of fears that he never knew had. “The only challenge that I had was coming to terms with something. I’ve already for a long time been a father, I have three sons and a daughter, and while we were shooting this, it finally dawned on me that I actually have my own set of fears,” Myles said.
“Most parents — we gage how we raise our children off what we already have been taught, or our morals and values and beliefs that were passed down. So in my head, I believe I’m a pretty good guy in terms of being a father who’s trying to raise my own sons in the right direction, but it just dawned on me that I do have my own set of fears about raising my sons in such troubling times.”
While on Shots Fired, the main focus is racially charged shootings, for Myles, there are many other fears he has.
“Outside of racially charged shootings in America, there’s still other things that are out there that I want to make sure that my sons are knowledgeable about, and that they are productive citizens. This show tackles racially charged shootings; there’s other stuff like mass incarceration, other things that are considered important issues in America.”
Myles didn’t know that he had these fears until he was on set filming for Shots Fired. “We live life, and then we’re protective, and we try to be aware of a lot of things. I’m an educator, so I like to say I try to be well-rounded with things and create an awareness for myself, but yeah, I didn’t know I had those set of fears until I started shooting that show.”
As for what drew Myles to this particular role, it came down to one question. “The question of ‘what would you do?’ what would you do if you were in that same situation? You know, we watched the previously passed year, families, cities, and law enforcers deal with the parameters of the things that have gone on. Trayvon, Brown, all of those individuals,” Myles remarked.
“You watch what’s on the news, and there [are] preventative measures that you put yourself in a situation, understanding how to go about accordingly if those things were to happen. But in this particular series, due to the dynamic of the show, it made me ask my own self: ‘would you do the same that Leon is doing?’ would you go to that extreme in protecting your family?”
“What would you do, Yohance? That’s one of the things that drew me to it outside of working with the Bythewood family and the other cast members such as Sanaa Lathan, Stephan James, and Helen Hunt. You get past all of the names and get past all of the people, and you say this is the message we get a chance to share with the world,” Myles continued.
As an actor, Myles realizes the voice he has is important. “One of the questions I even ask my students in being actors [is] ‘in the area of social and human activism what are the specific topics that you are drawn to?’ Because you become a voice for many people outside of what your career says,” he said.
“What is your voice? What do you stand for and what do you speak for? So this is one of them for me. I’m able to show my students that everything I’m teaching them ‘wow this dude is actually a part of something that he actually believes in.”
One thing that makes Shots Fired so unique to Myles is the simple fact that Fox picked it up. “Fox has become dear to me. Someone would say that this is long overdue; to me there’s not enough that can be said. We are evolving human beings, and there are a lot of differences as much as there are a lot of things we realize we have on common ground.”
“This is unique because Fox stepped out of what people would assume is Fox Network’s norm. We have our shows on Fox that we watch, I have friends on Empire, and I try to support them and then outside of that you’ve got the news. So, with things that are going on in America, you kind of say ‘man I don’t want to tune into anything,'” Myles continued.
“Fox is just only on my radar good for reporting news, but they took on a task, and that makes it unique above all things. That we actually have something out there that people can support — and also say that there is a work that speaks to their culture or either their community or state — that’s the uniqueness of it.”
Fox stepped up to the plate and decided to go outside of their normal shows in order to get Shots Fired on air because the show is that important.
“The dynamics of that happening is almost like a great leader. With a great leader, we only get the end results, but at the same time, many great leaders and or people have gone through a lot of adversities that are challenges, and I want to say that had Fox or any network put something out early enough, then it could’ve still been opinionated, and or only one-sided perspective. Being that it’s out now, Fox did a great job at capturing the different perspectives and different lenses that go on.”
“Outside of the shooting, we get to tackle the world of the officers who committed the shootings. We see how it affects the mothers, the communities. We also talk about the government, and we bring in the spiritual aspect too. So it’s a bunch of different lenses that we don’t get a chance to view. We only see what’s being reported, which is the incident of the accident that took place. That’s what we get a chance to witness with Shots Fired,” Myles said.
Although Myles has already worked with some big name celebrities, he still has some dreams of working with people he looks up to.
“I would love to work with Don Cheadle; I admire his work ethic. I would really like to work with Don Cheadle or Denzel [Washington],” Myles admitted. “I’ve already been in a movie with him. but to work alongside him would be awesome. Brad Pitt, I would love to do something with him, I’ve been a fan of Brad Pitt for a long time.”
And, of course, the list wouldn’t be finished if it didn’t include the one and only, Meryl Streep. “I love her movies. I get joked on because at the top of my collection there’s The Devil Wears Prada. I would love to work with her.”
Myles was taught by Tonea Stuart, who appeared in A Time To Kill and In The Heat Of The Night, and out of everything he learned from her, one thing stuck out the most.
“She told me one thing that kinda stuck to me, and it’s not to say no one can’t teach, but she said that if you’re able to teach what you do, you can say, in a good light, that you’re good at it. Just because you pick up a book and read, it doesn’t mean that you know what you think about it. Anybody can do that. Being a teacher helps enhance what I already know so I can impart it in the student. Two, being a film actor also shows the students that what I am teaching them actually works. I have the best of both worlds right now being a college professor,” he noted.
What most people probably don’t know is that Myles doesn’t have much to hide because he doesn’t like surprises. “It’s kind of like a ‘what you see is what you get.’ I’m just a down to earth, well-rounded individual,” Myles said.
“The mind is incredibly strong and incredibly weak at the same time. I’m not up for surprises myself, no more than I want to surprise people in any bad way or good way. I just think that everything that’s already out there is kind of what it is, and I just go with what life sometimes brings me and make my adjustments. That’s all we can do.”
“The only good surprise is they will get a look into whatever comes next for me, that’s on my list of accomplishing my goals. I’m just as surprised by a lot of things that I’m accomplishing myself, so we’re all being surprised right now,” Myles laughed.
Myles would also like to take the opportunity to give a big shout out to Jessica, Melanie, and Marissa of Katz PR for helping him so much along the way.
Be sure to catch Yohance Myles as Leon Grant on Shots Fired, airing Wednesdays at 8/7c on Fox.
*Featured image credit: Sean Richardson
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