Ronnie, Bobby, Ricky, Mike, Ralph, and Johnny are getting the biopic treatment. BET announced the members of the Boston-bred R&B group New Edition will be the subject of an upcoming miniseries about their careers, and Empire star Bryshere “Yazz” Gray was tapped to play New Jack Swing pioneer Michael Bivins.
Gray is part of a cast that includes Keith Powers (Ronnie DeVoe), Woody McClain (Bobby Brown), Elijah Kelley (Ricky Bell), Algee Smith (Ralph Tresvant), and Luke James (Johnny Gill). AllHipHop.com spoke with the 22-year-old rapper/actor by phone from rehearsals for the New Edition miniseries, and Yazz discussed his preparation for taking on the role of Biv.
“I’ve been working with a dialect coach. I went to Boston for about four weeks to really live that Boston life to understand where Michael came from,” says Gray. “I was just learning a lot about him, so I can take that home with me. It’s fun.”
In order to perfect the singing, rapping, and dancing associated with hit records such as “Cool It Now” and “If It Isn’t Love,” Gray and the other performers have been practicing for twelve hours a day. The opportunity to present the story of the founding member of Bell Biv DeVoe was a special assignment for Yazz.
“What made me interested in the project? Anything that’s legendary I want to be part of. I had to be part of it,” adds Gray. “Michael Bivins is the character that stuck out to me from day 1 when I heard New Edition. I was really lucky for them to have me play Michael Bivins, because I love New Edition so much.”
According to Gray, the 3-part biographical movie will cover New Edition from their childhood into the their 30’s. Dante Hoagland (Bivins), Caleb McLaughlin (Bell), Jahi Winston (Tresvant), Myles Truitt (DeVoe), and Tyler Williams (Brown) are set to portray the singers in their younger days.
New Edition: The Movie is scheduled to premiere in 2017. All the members of New Edition are signed on as co-producers. The script was written by Abdul Williams (Lottery Ticket) with Chris Robinson (ATL) directing.
Yazz’s talents will also be part of the Empire: Original Soundtrack, Season 2 Volume 2 album being released on April 29. AllHipHop.com recently premiered “Got That Work,” the Philadelphia native’s single from the forthcoming compilation.