Tyler Lepley played Benny on Tyler Perry’s The Haves and the Have Nots, which ended in 2021. Benny, Hanna’s only son and half-brother to Tika Sumpter’s ever-conniving Candace, was often the family’s protector and mediator, but he still caused trouble.

“It was great working with a titan, one of the greatest to ever do it, Tyler Perry, and it was on the Oprah Winfrey Network so to be able to collab with Ms. Winfrey was invaluable,” Lepley says. I started playing there. It was a crash course in how to play the role, find the arc, and connect with the audience.

Lepley played Diamond and Ian in the first seasons of P-Valley and Harlem, but his fans felt his characters were underutilised. Lepley’s characters got much more screen time the second time.

It was nice to get support after both seasons. “I heard lots of people saying, ‘we really rocked with the character so much to the point where we want to see more,'” he says. “That’s great because when we give art to the audience, it’s kind of in their hands, so to feel that feedback was positive. To see the writers react to that is also great.”

In the second season of Starz’s P-Valley, Diamond, who guards The Pynk, was as far from falling in love with Keyshawn aka Miss Mississippi, one of its rockstar dancers. Instead, he got involved with a new cast member, Big Bone, who played Miracle Watts, his real-life girlfriend, and was locked in a trunk at season’s end. Lepley’s steamy sex scene was equally memorable.

“On screen, it’s ‘wow, it’s so sexy’; in reality, it’s very awkward,” he says. “There are all these people in the room, and you’re blessed to have a closed set, but there are still people holding microphones and lights and stuff. Intimacy coordinators. It’s a sequenced dance.”

Harlem follows four female friends—anthropology professor Camille (Meagan Good), tech founder and lesbian Tye (Jerrie Johnson), aspiring actress/singer and sexually free spirit Angie (Shoniqua Shandai), and struggling fashion designer Quinn (Grace Byers) desperately seeking love—but Lepley plays a major role in the second season. Camille’s love is chef Ian. In season one, he returned from Paris to Harlem with a fiancée. Season two, now streaming on Prime Video, began after Camille boldly declared their love the night before his wedding.

I think we have a deep enough love and unfinished business to keep the flame burning. Ian and Camille’s relationship was “the one that never went away,” he says. The spark and flame remain.

Lepley’s six-foot frame, strong features, and chiselled body make her irresistible. Sorry we objectify you. “It’s so inappropriate,” his Harlem co-star Jasmine Guy, who plays Quinn’s mother Patricia, said at their SCAD TVfest panel in Atlanta. “You’re talented and have substance.”

Lepley believes everyone is boxed. However, his acting roles punch back. “The only way to break out of Benny is to be Diamond. “The only way to get out of being typecast as big, mean, and scary is to play Ian,” he says. “Denzel is different from someone who plays the same character in every movie.”

Lepley, who says his Drake resemblance is “just the beard and the fade and the lightskin thing,” wants to do “something really big” next. I don’t know if it’s action or what, but I think I can do what Michael B. Jordan does. I can emulate The Rock. That level.”

He adds one crucial ingredient. “Love story.”

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