Brittany O’Grady is one of the three new young actresses starring in Star, the new series from Empire co-creator Lee Daniels. O’Grady plays Simone Davis, the sister of the title character, played by Jude Demorest.
Unlike Star, Simone, who is depicted as 16 years old, isn’t that interested in becoming a pop star and has a much quieter personality. She enjoys being with their godmother, Carlotta (Queen Latifah) and is even interested in singing at church. However, she also has a drinking problem and smokes marijuana to avoid her problems.
Still, Star has pushed Simone and her friend Alexandra (Ryan Destiny) to form a girl group, with the dream of hitting it big in the Atlanta music scene.
New episodes of Star air on Fox on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET.
Here’s a look at O’Grady’s life and career.
1. O’Grady Was Attending Pepperdine University on a Theater Scholarship When She was Called to Audition for ‘Star’
O’Grady was attending Pepperdine University on a theater scholarship when she got the call to audition for Star. Shewas appearing in a school production of South Pacific at the time. When she got the part, she withdrew from classes to make the Star pilot.
“It was a little uncomfortable for me at the time, but I did it. I got the call that I booked the role when I was doing the school play,” O’Grady said in an interview with Variety.
Demorest and O’Grady met during the audition process long before they met Ryan Destiny. In that same interview with Variety, Demorest said that it has been important to spend time together off-screen to build their on-screen relationship as sisters.
“We could act it because that’s what we do, but it’s much better when you have a real bond,” Demorest told Variety. “And now that it’s been a year, we’re around each other all the time so it feels natural. We’re like real-life homies now so it’s easy.”
2. This Is the First Time O’Grady Gets to Play Her Own Race on TV
In an interview with V Magazine, O’Grady said that this is the first time that she’s been able to play her own race on television. She is biracial in real life and gets to be biracial on Star as well.
“I didn’t grow up with too many mixed-race actresses to look up to,” O’Grady told the magazine. “This is the first time I’m actually playing my own race on television; I usually play Latina women.”
O’Grady does have a few credits on television. She appeared in an episode of Trophy Wife and The Night Shift before playing Nadia Garcia on The CW’s The Messengers. After that show, she landed the part on Star.
3. O’Grady Was Raised in the Washington, DC Area & Appeared in Commercials When She Was 4 Years Old
O’Grady was raised in the Washington, DC area and attended Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia. Long before that though, she was already acting professionally. She started when she was just four years old.
According to her IMDb bio, posted by O’Grady’s own agents, she appeared in national ad campaigns and public service announcements. She was a spokeswoman for Family Online Safety Institute, a group that has a mission to make the online world safe for children and their families. She was also the face of a national Food Stamp Program campaign.
O’Grady also performed on the stage in the Washington area, in productions at the Signature Theatre, Ford’s Theare, Synetic Theater and the Little Theater of Alexandria. She is also a graduate of Encore Stage & Studio.
4. O’Grady Was Cast After Daniels’ Launched an International Talent Search for ‘Star’
Star has been in the works for over a year and was first announced at the August 2015 Television Critics Association Press Tour on the heels of Empire‘s success. According to Entertainment Weekly, Daniels launched an international casting search to find actresses for the main roles.
Here’s what the original casting call for O’Grady’s character, Simone, read:
Character is half African-American, half Caucasian, Star’s younger sister, 16 years old (actor must be 18 years of age or over). Tragic and adorable.
However, Daniels didn’t have to look outside the U.S. to find his stars. O’Grady is from Virginia, while both Demorest and Destiny have roots in Detroit.
5. O’Grady’s Next Big Project is ‘Above Suspicion’ Starring ‘Game of Thrones’ Actress Emilia Clarke
When she wasn’t busy filming the first season of Star, O’Grady found time to make Above Suspicion, a crime thriller that co-stars Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones), Johnny Knoxville and Jack Huston. It was directed by Phillip Noyce, the director of Salt, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger and The Giver.
The film is based on a true story about a married FBI agent who works in a Kentucky town, where he has an affair with a poor local woman who is his top informant. She thinks he can help her escape from her life, but their relationship only dooms them. It was based on a book by Joe Sharkey and adapted by Chris Gerolmo. It doesn’t have a release date, but is expected to be out by the end of 2017.