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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Actor Tyler Lepley: Working Hard at Success Everyday

by Cyrus Webb

He may have only been in the industry for a few years, but already actor Tyler Lepley is making his mark on television and the hearts of fans everywhere. As Benny Young on the hit drama The Haves and the Have Nots, we have seen him realize a dream of being a business owner and the nightmare of being accused of a crime you didn't commit. Through it all Tyler allows us to not just see a character but a part of himself as well.

I asked him about the experience and the response to the show. "The first thing that comes to mind is when I stepped on set," Tyler told me. "I've only been acting for about a year and a half, and it was like nothing I have ever seen before. Everyone checked their egos at the door when we were running lines and as we filmed the show that bond was solidified. The whole thing has been a blessing. It's one thing to be able to put something together and another to get the love from the fans." Those with The Haves and the Have Nots are getting both.

Tyler told me that the character Benny has been easy to relate to, but so have other characters as well. "I've seen people who don't have a lot find peace and happiness, and I've seen people who have money who are very unhappy." He says these are issues that are going on in life everyday.

This experience has an actor began in an unlikely way. "I had failed NFL dreams," Tyler says. He was naturally gifted at football but that wasn't enough. It came so easy to him that he admits he failed to work at it. "Sometimes your gift is your curse." After football Tyler went into personal training which led him to  modeling and acting. What was different this time? "I thought about the football dream and why I didn't succeed," he told me "The truth was I didn't work at it. I wasn't going to make that mistake again." As he began booking the first things in his new career he made sure to work very hard, even though it was something he was gifted at. "Everything happens for a reason," he says. "It's up to us to figure out that reason."

One of the things viewers of The Haves and the Have Nots have gotten to enjoy is Tyler's character Benny's interaction with his sister Candace (played by Tika Sumpter). "It's crazy to watch her be that snake and then come home and see that she does love someone," he told me. "Sometime the things about someone who is rebellious is it's a way to protect themselves. "A lot of it is a wall," he says. "It's a shield." At the end of the day, though, with Candace and Benny it's all going to go back to love. "When you see characters act like that you're able to dive into that creation. It's a big privilege."

When I began watching the show their were two things that struck me about the character Benny: the power of the dream and the issue of faith. "Benny wanted to be able to have that towing service," Tyler explained. He could relate to the feeling behind that. "It's such a realistic dream. Growing up I wanted to be someone who could provide for his family. I have to there for my family. It's one thing to chase a dream and another to realize what a dream takes." The journey is not always easy. "When you are going towards a dream sometimes you have to go through the dark to get to the light." Tyler says it is fun to play that dream and to remember that sometimes hard times have to come in order to realize your dream.

The next thing we discussed was Benny and faith. It's obvious from the very first episode of Season One that he doesn't share the excitement his mother Hannah (played by Crystal Fox)  has when it comes to God. Tyler explains it this way: "I'm a God-fearing person, but it took for me to get a little older in order to realize what that means. A lot of times when things aren't going well for you it's easy to look up at the sky and curse and ask God why me. When you're going through those trails and tribulations you get to understand what is on the over side of that darkness. For Benny the chips seem to be stacked against him. He's trying to find that path. It's hard for him to find that faith with everything going on. I can say that Benny now is Tyler Lepley four or five years ago."

With the first season coming to a close and the audience continuing to grow I was curious as to how Tyler was able to stay true to himself in the face of success:  "First of all it's all about staying grounded," he answered. "That means keeping my relationship with the Lord and the friends around me. You should always keep in mind that what got you to this point is what you should stick to. I'm not just soaking up the limelight. I'm still growing and auditioning. I have to remember who Tyler Lepley was before all of this. I know that just as quickly as it was given to me it can be taken away."

Stay in touch with Tyler Lepley on Twitter at Tweet using the hashtag #HAHN.

Actress Renee Lawless: Enjoying the Success That Comes From Loving What You Do

by Cyrus Webb

She may have become known to many through her work on stage, but since 2013 actress Renee Lawless has solidified herself as one of the unforgettable stars of the runaway hit The Haves and the Have Nots.

In the first 10 minutes of the first episode we saw her character Katheryn Cryer as the strong matriarch of her family, however, the show has also revealed another side of the woman whose cutting retorts and strength masks a world of hurt and pain. Now three seasons in millions have made the show must-see television and Renee couldn't be happier.

I asked about her thoughts of the first episode. Her answer? "This is going to be a hit, and I'm a part of it." Renee went on to tell me that they expected high numbers on the first one and as we have continued to grow that's what has really been more overwhelming. The drama is groundbreaking as the Oprah Winfrey Network's first scripted drama and the first of three projects created by Tyler Perry that appear on the channel. The importance of the moment is not lost. "Not too many people get to be at the start of something great," Renee said to me.

Renee Lawless' place in the spotlight is something that has been in the works for quite some time. "Even as a young child I was singing the loudest in church plays," she told me. "I always dreamed of being a movie star." When she began in theater, it just felt right to her. "This is my home," she said of the experience. "This is where I want to be." She knew in high school that no matter where she went that performing would be a part of her life. "I've been on stage many years, but my ultimate goal was always TV and eventually film." The Haves and the Have Nots has made that dream come true. She said that to not only have achieved her ultimate goal of being a series regular and a star of a series is an experience she is loving.

It was really intriguing to talk with Renee about how she has brought Katheryn to life. "I knew all these layers before you all did," she told me. "With any new television drama everyone is brought in in the middle. It's up to the characters to bring you in. The one thing that I love about Katheryn is that she's a very multi-layered person, it's like peeling back layers of an onion. She's like a hollow oak tree: outside she's a strong pillar of strength but on the inside she's rotting and hollow. What her husband and children and life have given her has made her a very lonely person. It's basically what it means to have and to have not."

Renee then gave an example that I think resonates with everyone. "Even though she's worth 50 million dollars she's a woman who's over a certain age, who doesn't like getting old, who is dealing with cancer and problems with her kids. Not many can relate to being worth 50 million dollars, but 50 million people can relate to what she's going through. She in many ways is one of the most relatable characters because she has all of these layers. She's just like me."

Though things are going well for Renee and she is doing what she loves, it hasn't happened without a real commitment to her craft. "I worked very hard and long and got many more rejections than I've had successes," she told me. "I do this because I love it, not for the award or the paycheck that it affords me." Speaking of the world that actors live in she adds: "Our career is very unsure. If you're just doing it for the fame and glory you're not going to go very far or last." Her next words are great reminders for all of us with a dream. "You have to love what you do in order to truly be successful at it."

May those words resonate with us as we identify our passion in life and vow to pursue it.

Renee's website is and you can follow her online at