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By Suzanne


Interview with Serayah of "Empire" on FOX 12/5/16

Final Transcript
FBC PUBLICITY: Conference Call with Serayah of Empire
December 5, 2016/10:00 a.m. PST

Kylie Potuznik
Serayah McNeill


Moderator Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by and welcome to FBC Publicity Conference Call with Serayah of Empire. At this time all lines are in a listen-only mode. Later we will conduct a question-and-answer session; instructions will be given to you at that time. [Operator instructions]. As a reminder, todayís conference call is being recorded.

I would now like to turn the conference over to Kylie Potuznik. Please go ahead.

Kylie Hi guys, good morning, Kylie with Fox Publicity. Thanks for joining us this morning for our conference call with Serayah who plays Tiana on Empire. We have two episodes of Empire remaining this year, a new episode this Wednesday on December 7th and then next Wednesday 12/14 is our fall finale followed by a special premiere of Star.

And now I will turn it over to Serayah, and we can get started.

Serayah Awesome. Hi, Iím Serayah, and Iím definitely excited to hear whatever questions you guys have, also to share some information about the new song, Aces High, thatís going to premiere on the season finale of Empire.

Moderator [Operator instructions]. We will go to the line of Suzanne Lanque with The TV Mega Site. Your line is open.

Suzanne Good morning. What can you tell us about the new song? I watched it and enjoyed it, by the way.

Serayah Thank you. Well, itís a really fun song. The scene that they had me do it in a fashion show and itís premiered very, I think, eloquently and itís definitely a crossover song. I like the song because it has that upbeat and that DJ feel that it can be played pretty much anywhereóa club, a rave, anything like that. Thatís why Iím excited about the song. Itís a lot different than any other song Tiana has done.

Suzanne Great, and howís the new album coming along?

Serayah The albumís coming along great. Iím actually still working on it, itís a work in progress. Iím really excited about it and everyone that I get to work with and in the future that Iím going to work with.

Suzanne Do you have any idea when it will be out or do they tell you?

Serayah We were hoping by the top of the year, but I think weíre going to push that a little bit and just give it some more time to really be great.

Suzanne Well, thanks a lot.

Moderator Thank you. Our next question will come from the line of Jamie Steinberg with Starry Constellation. Your line is open.

Jamie Hi, itís such an honor to speak with you. Thank you, Serayah, for your time.

Serayah Of course.

Jamie I was wondering about Tianaís feelings. Does she have real feelings for Graham or real feelings for Hakeem?

Serayah Iím sorry, say that again.

Jamie Does Tiana have real feelings for Graham or real feelings for Hakeem?

Serayah You know what I conclude about Tianaís story because itís very open-ended, I would say that Tiana has a lot of history and feelings for Hakeem. Obviously they were dating in the first season, so they have a lot of ups and downs that they went through, things like that. I think that she definitely has that place with Hakeem, but as far as Graham, I think she liked him but probably not as much as Hakeem.

Jamie And this great song you have coming out now, can you talk a little bit about if you participated in the writing of it or was it something that was brought to you that you just really clicked to?

Serayah It was actually something that was brought to me. I know that thereís a writer that Ester Dean had worked with, and I love Ester Dean anyway. Sheís amazing, and she writes hits all the time. So I was just really excited about the song. I loved it the way it was. Itís incredible, and Iím looking forward to the fans getting to hear it.

Jamie Thank you for your time.

Moderator Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Malcolm Venable with TV Guide. Your line is open.

Malcolm Hi there, thanks for taking the time to talk with us.

Serayah Hi, of course.

Malcom I wanted to dig more into relationship stuff and also Iím going to cite another question about the fiasco that Tiana got involved with in terms of Becky at work. Any chance of reconciliation or wanting to get back with Hakeem? And then the second question is about how Becky sort of got into trouble trying to go to bat for you. Can you preview whatís going to happen next with respect to that situation?

Serayah Becky definitely went and got into some trouble trying to get some of the songs released on the show, but things are looking up for Becky and Tiana, I can say that. And as far as theówhat was the other question?

Malcolm With respect to Hakeem, your previous bae, heís obviously moved on a little bit, but is there hope or a chance that you all may find one another back in each otherís arms again?

Serayah I donít know if thatís telling too much, but I really do think that she is so annoyed with him just because of everything thatís ever happened. People always say thereís always a chance exes will get back together, especially if theyíre around each other. So weíll see.

Malcolm Okay. Thank you.

Moderator Thank you. Our next question comes from Ny Magee with Your line is open.

Ny Perfect, good morning, Serayah. Thank you for taking time out to speak with us. Two questions. The first question is has there been an Empire tour where you actors, you and Hakeem and everybody who sings and makes these wonderful songs, are you guys ever going to go on tour and perform these songs for your fans?

Serayah Thatís actually a really good idea. I know first season that they did, Hakeem and Jamal did like a spot tour and a couple of dates around in malls and stuff like that, but I havenít heard any word about us all being on tour. Weíll see, but Iím not sure.

Ny And my follow-up question is, without spoiling anything, Iím really fascinated with Tianaís relationship or the plot line with Tiana and Nessa. You guys are the competing female singers on the show. So without spoiling anything, are viewers going to be surprised at all about how your story plays out over the season? What can we expect between you and Nessa?

Serayah A lot. Theyíre definitely going to be surprised because I donít think theyíve seen Tiana be so outraged at someone and I donít think that they would be expecting Nessa to do what she did, so Iím really excited for everyone to see that battle between the two.

Ny Perfect, thank you very much.

Moderator Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Karen Moul with SciFi Vision. Your line is open.

Karen Hi, good morning. Thanks for being with us today.

Serayah Good morning.

Karen My questionís actually related to the last question. So over the last few seasons weíve seen Tianaóshe really has sort of been in some ways like a pawn that the Lyons use. I mean, Rhonda did her wrong, and we canít even explain all the things Hakeem has done, and now sheís caught between Xavier and Becky. I was really thrilled to see Tiana hit back at Hakeem with a really feminist song and really standing up for herself, so I was wondering am I reading this right, are we seeing some real development in Tiana and taking control? Related to that, is Andre going to be sorry that he messed with her?

Serayah Theyíre definitely going to be sorry. I feel like anything done in the wrong, with the wrong intention, always comes back and gets you. Definitely people have been taking a shot at Tiana this season in the later episodes that weíll show, and theyíre going to get something back for it for sureóboomerang effect.

Karen Great, Iíll be looking forward to seeing that. Iím going to jump out of the queue and let someone else go and get back in in a minute. Thank you.

Serayah Okay.

Moderator Our next question comes from Peter Ritchie with Celeb Music 24/7. Your line is open.

Peter Hi, Serayah, how are you doing?

Serayah Good, how are you?

Peter Iím good. I have a question. Since weíre talking about Empire, Iím going to move over to your music and your debut album. Is there anyone that you could tell us that youíve been working with producer-wise that you can reveal right now or is that kind of under wraps?

Serayah Iíve been working with this producer named Donut. Iíve been working with Ester and a few others and hopefully more. But Iíd definitely love to keep the team of just a couple people and have a sound thatís consistent, so Iím not too much focused on having everyone on the project, I just want it to be great.

Peter Thatís awesome. I also wanted to ask you with Aces High, thatís for Empire. Will you be featuring some of your songs on your debut album from Empire or is it going to be all originals that are completely separate from the show?

Serayah Iím looking forward to doing all originals, but weíll see. I feel like if Aces High does good enough and things like that, as like Look But Donít Touch did, of course, but as of now itís all originals.

Peter Awesome. Thank you so much.

Moderator Thank you. Our next question will come from the line of Ronda Brook with Control magazine. Your line is open.

Ronda Hi, thanks for taking the time out to speak with us today.

Serayah Hi, of course.

Ronda I wanted to piggyback on your album as well. What can fans expect from your album? Will the songs be similar to what Tiana sings on Empire or will you have a different style?

Serayah I feel like the overall sound is going to be the sameónot sound but as far as the regular listener listening to the song, my voice is going to sound familiar because obviously Iím singing and adding some of me on the tracks for Empire. But the vibe will be different, a little bit more sultry as well as the pop and the fun stuff but more sultry, soul, R&B stuff as well.

Ronda Okay. Will any of your costars have any features on your upcoming album, and do you plan to have any collaborations planned?

Serayah Yes, actually, I do. I hope to collaborate with Jeremih or someone thatís really good right now thatís out. I love Nick Jonas, Jeremih, theyíre really great. But as far as right now I donít have anyone from the show being on it.

Ronda And one more thing, who has been the most influential to you regarding your music career?

Serayah Music career, I would say definitely probably a mix between my mom, Sade and Beyonce or Janet Jackson and Beyonce. I say that because obviously my mom supports everything I do and makes sure that Iím doing the best that I can all the time, even when I donít want to or when I donít feel like going anymore. Iíd say Janet because sheís an amazing performer, and she just goes in on stage. Iíd say Beyonce because she has an amazing career, and sheís such a big businesswoman in the midst of being a celebrity. So those three are my top.

Ronda Okay. Thank you so much.

Moderator Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Ariana Romero with Your line is open.

Ariana Hi, great to talk to you.

Serayah You too.

Ariana So first of all, you were talking about Hakeem and Tiana and whether or not they might get back together. Obviously things crash and burn with Graham. Do you think maybe Tiana will get a brand new romantic interest in the next season, like in the next couple months?

Serayah Well, not in this season for sure but maybe in the next season. Weíll see, it depends on how things roll out with Hakeem, I guess.

Ariana So you think maybe thatíll work or maybe sheíll be so busy ruling the pop scene she wonít have time for a man?

Serayah Right. I feel like as of now itís either because Graham is gone, itís either her career or Hakeem. I donít think it will be anyone new because of what Graham has done. I think thatís burned her bridge for new people.

Ariana I understand that. And we were talking about you working on your new album. Your friend Taylor Swift is always about to drop a new album. Do you think maybe you guys will ever end up in the studio together?

Serayah Maybe, but I donít see as far as us planning to do something, but if something organically happened, that would be amazing.

Ariana It definitely would be. Iíd love to hear it. Thank you. Thatís it.

Serayah Thank you.

Moderator Our next question comes from the line of Avery Thompson with Hollywood Life. Your line is open.

Avery Hi, Serayah. Iím a huge fan. What can you say about whatís going to be happening with Tiana in these final two episodes of this year?

Serayah I can say that sheís definitely focused on her career like always, but sheís getting picked on a little bit by people who want to be in her spotlight, like Nessa and then people who want to be back with her like Hakeem is really trying. Throughout all this, sheís just trying to press forward and get this music that she wants out, out and thatís what really matters to herótrying not to let the personal life override, but sometimes you just canít help it.

Avery All right, thank you so much.

Moderator Thank you. [Operator instructions]. And weíll go to the line of Art Shrian with NewYorkEye. Your line is open.

Art Hi, thank you. How are you?

Serayah Good, how are you?

Art Good, good. Congratulations on your wonderful show. I wonder, youíve been part of the show since beginning, so looking at the evolution of your character, Tiana, where would you like it to go in next seasons or coming seasons? As just an audience or as a person whoís also in similar shoes being a singer yourself, where would you like it to go and how does playing this role impact you in your personal life?

Serayah Well, as far as my personal life, it impacts it in the way of being on TV and being recognized, but I think itís pretty black and white because itís glitz and glam for Empire, but Iím still working on everything in my personal life as far as other projects and things like that.

I think for Tiana, the evolution of the character has been amazing, but I would like to just see her I guess do more of the music and everything that weíve seen her do but I think just hear more from who she is maybe and things like that that we havenít really seen from her.

Art Concerning youíve spent a couple years with the character now, do you get to talk to the writers and improvise or is it still very scripted at this point? How is the environment on set?

Serayah The environment on set is great, but as far as the writers, yes, before the season, I sometimes get to sit down with the writers and just think of different plots and things that could go on with my character. It doesnít necessarily mean itís going to happen or itís going to roll out that way because of all the other characters, but I definitely throw out ideas.

Art Thatís awesome, and that must be fun. Youíre part of this wonderful show thatís kind of breaking the mold of TV shows for people of color, black TV shows that are more universal and after that, we havfe so many wonderful shows since, from [indiscernible] to Atlanta that are doing the same thing and expanding that universe. How does it feel to be part of such a wonderful show? Whatís your message to other storytellers, performers who are in similar space who will expand their space? Working on this show, what would be your message?

Serayah What I really admire about the show that Iím on is not only that it is a black or relatively African-American cast but just that weíre seen in the light of not only black people can come from in the gutter or have nothing, but they can rise and become moguls and millionaires and things like that. So thatís what I really admire about the show. Also, I think itís really amazing that now at this time we get to have black television back and see it back in action. For the young kids watching, itís great.

Art Absolutely, it reflects the world we live in, and thatís wonderful. So last question, whatís your favorite TV show right now thatís on TV? What do you like to watch when you get some time?

Serayah Iím really into this show called Insecure. Itís on HBO. It just came out. Itís hilarious. The other show that Ió

Art Wonderful, itís an amazing show.

Serayah You like it? Yes, itís amazing. Also the other show that I like is Power, and I really enjoy, I really like Blackish too. Itís a cool comedy. Itís super ditsy and funny and quirky.

Art I completely agree. I love Insecure. Itís amazing. You should check out Atlanta if you get a chance, if you havenít. Itís a wonderful show.

Serayah I watched one episode, but I havenít got to really get into it. It looked really good the way that it was shot.

Art Thanks again for taking the time and congratulations on the show and your album coming out.

Serayah Thank you. Thank you.

Moderator Thank you. Weíll go to the line of Kylie Krabbe with All Hip Hop. Your line is open.

Kylie Thank you, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us.

Serayah Of course.

Kylie I wanted to ask you, just to go along with the idea of how much collaboration you have on your character with the writers, you shared with the last person that was talking, but what would you say are the big differences or similarities between you and Tiana? Is there anything that you really fought for that you wanted Tiana to be in terms of how she is on the show?

Serayah I would say me and Tiana have a lot of similarities as far as being a go-getter and a dreamer and singing and dancing. All this stuff is what Iíve always wanted to do. And yes, of course, this is what Iíve wanted to do my whole life, so definitely Iíve been in the shoes of fighting all the noís and waiting to get the yes and once you get the yes, pressing forward and doing what you can with your opportunity that you got.

Kylie Just to add to that, because also one storyline that you had in terms of your love life, of course now itís kind of thisówell it was this love triangle with you, Hakeem and Graham, but also your character is bi-racial. Was that something thatóhow did you feel initially about portraying a character that was bi-racial? Was that no big deal to you or was it important? Or how was that for you?

Serayah Welló

Kylie Did I say bi-racial? You know what I meant. I didnít mean to say biracial, but was bisexual. How do you feel about that? That was my bad, sorry.

Serayah Itís okay. When I first got word that that was what was going to happen, I didnít know how to feel, to be honest. I have no problem with people who are bisexual or transgender or anything like that, but to play a character I just didnít knowóit wasnít in her breakdown. It came to me later in the script. I just wanted to know where she was coming from as far as an actor. I didnít want to just be doing it. So my only thing was just to have a talk with the writers and be like okay, why is she this way?

What we came down for with the character is that she was going through a period of being in the industry, being in the fast life, and some people get caught up and they start trying things theyíve never done, whether itís drugs, whether thatís being bisexual, whether thatís whatever and they go on this fast road. But the thing for Tiana was it was just an experiment and sheís like not for me, and thatís what it was. So I had a far greater understanding about it after we talked.

Kylie Great. Do you ever get any sort of mail or anything from people? Because one of the great things about Empire is yes, itís a soap opera, but it goes after so many important issues that you wouldnít think of for essentially a soap opera thatís set in the world of hip hop. Did you get any mail or anything from people in the bi-racial community or anything like that or was it just part of who Tiana was, no biggie?

Serayah I donít think I got any mail, but I definitely get recognition. When Iím out on the street, I definitely have the gay community on my side for sure.

Kylie Okay. And is there anything that you really want for Tiana in the future, one sort of type of song or collaboration that you want for Tiana on the show?

Serayah I always wanted Tiana to collaborate with Jussie, and in future episodes she finally gets to. Now I think sheís good. It would be amazing if she had a collaboration with a guest star on the show. That would be really cool, but other than that, I think Iíve reached that now that I got to do a song with Jussie. It was really cool.

Kylie Okay. And alsoóand this will be my last oneówouldnít it be cool if you guys actually had Issa Rae on the show since you were talking about Insecure? That would be pretty cool.

Serayah Yes, Issa. Yes, that would be pretty good.

Kylie You should float that by, in my opinion. Thank you so much for your time.

Serayah Thank you.

Moderator Thank you. And we have time for one final question, and that will come from the line of Karen Moul with SciFi Vision. Your line is open.

Karen Okay, last question, the pressure is on for me to make it a good one, I guess. I wanted to ask, youíve talked in interviews before, I know you started making music when you were very young, and as a child you said that you always wanted to be on a TV show and have a show where you could sing and act. So now I think youíre 21, and youíre on this monster hit, so I wondering if you could tell us how the reality compares to the dream and what has surprised you or whatís it been like to cross this major goal off your list at such a young age?

Serayah Itís actually unreal sometimes. I donít think about it a lot until I get a question like this. Itís really a blessing to be able to do what you want to do in general, but to be able to accomplish such aónot a far-fetched dream but a far-fetched dream in peopleís eyes because when you look at celebrities and you think of movies and shows, you think of things and people, like theyíre not human and itís in other world.

Itís really amazing that I got to be a part of it at this young age. Thatís totally correct. But whatís the most surprising part about it to me that Iím still surprised at is that yes, I did want to act and sing and everything, but the universe gave it to me in one package, and itís really, really cool. Actually Iím just always grateful for the opportunity, and Iím just always working really to just work on different stuff and just to keep the ball rolling.

Karen And so one last thing, aside from the album, do you have anything else new in the works that you want to share with your fans? Like on hiatus, besides your album, will you be working on any guest spots on shows or movies or anything like that?

Serayah Yes, actually Iím on a movie that I just got word thatís going to Sundance and itís called Burning Sands. Iím really excited about that because itís a film and I also have another film that I canít talk about, but Iím really excited to do as well.

Karen Okay, well, weíll ask about that in our next interview. So thank you very much for sharing that with us.

Serayah Thank you.

Moderator With that, panel, do you have any closing comments?

Kylie I think we are all set. Thank you so much. Thanks all for joining us this morning and make sure to tune in this Wednesday and next Wednesday for the fall finale. Then if you could just let everyone know about the recording information.

Moderator Certainly. Ladies and gentlemen, todayís conference call will be available for replay after 11:30 today until midnight December 12th.
That does conclude your conference call for today. Thank you for your participation and for using AT&T Executive Teleconference Service. You may now disconnect.



Andre sabotages Tianaís big appearance at a fashion event in an attempt to get Nessa into the spotlight.  Meanwhile, Tariq works with Leah to try to bring down Lucious, and Jamal works with Philip to get over his PTSD in the all-new ďThe Unkindest CutĒ episode of EMPIRE airing Wednesday, Dec. 7 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. (EMP-308) (TV-14 D, L, S, V)


(Tiana on EMPIRE)

Born in Encinitas, CA, Serayah is an actor, singer and dancer. She recently wrapped the lead role in the feature film ďBurning Sands,Ē which is scheduled for release in 2017. In addition to her acting credits, Serayah is known for her role in Taylor Swift's mega-hit video ďBad Blood,Ē and is now working on a debut album of her own. She currently resides in Chicago.

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