Home Entertainment Rhoyle Ivy King on playing a groundbreaking role for Black queer youth

Rhoyle Ivy King on playing a groundbreaking role for Black queer youth

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Rhoyle Ivy King: This profile is part of our Culture Shifters series, which spotlights people who are revolutionizing how we perceive the world around us. Get to know film archivist Maya Cade, internet star Keyon Elkins, rapper Latasha, filmmaker Alika Tengan, artist Kay Rufai and music historian Katelina Eccleston.

Actor Rhayle Ivy King is taking on a role he never expected to see in his lifetime: portraying young Black queer characters on television.

He co-stars on “All American: Homecoming,” a spinoff to the popular CW series “All American,” which follows student athletes at historically Black Bringston University in Atlanta. His character Nathaniel Hardin is an attorney-at-law and “heels girl” who always stands by her friends to support them and keep them grounded.

King, 26 says she “plays a character that I needed as I grew up and someone that helped shape the vision I have for myself in my head,” she adds. “The honor is being able to portray such an inspiring figure.”

Season one of the TV drama featured Nathaniel’s storylines which dealt with prejudices surrounding her living in an all-female dorm and being the token recruit for a sorority to fill quotas. However, Nathaniel also displayed compassion by lending an ear and hand whenever her close friends needed assistance.

King was cast as Nathaniel after Nkechi Okoro Carroll, the creator and showrunner of “All American: Homecoming”, saw his audition tape. She watched one minute of it and knew immediately that King was perfect for the part. As writer/executive producer, Nkechi wanted to create a character who lived unapologetically while sparking conversations around stigmas against Black LGBTQ individuals, particularly on college campuses.

“This show is about representation, Black excellence and our culture,” Carroll said. “We strive to push people to reach their highest potentials – encouraging them to embrace who they truly are.” Carroll continued, “We aim to challenge people to think outside the box when it comes to inclusivity and acceptance – let’s have this conversation!”

Nathaniel had only eight lines in the pilot episode, but Carroll decided to develop him into a series regular who appears in 10 of 13 episodes. King and Carroll often discussed story arcs that would humanize Nathaniel, hoping to avoid having him constantly burdened by trauma or struggle like many gay and queer characters on screen.

Every scene we give Rhoyle Ivy King, his character keeps evolving,” Carroll said. “The actors and writers should feel ownership in the story because Rhoyle is simply magical – his persona and being bring so much life, light, joy on set.”

Christine Swanson, who directed two episodes during season one, commented, “Rhoyle Ivy King is like a rock.”

“His presence always provides the other actors with a calming, supportive vibe,” she noted. “He’s an energizing force of nature in a quiet way that’s so much fun to work with!”

King was raised among a circle of Black women relatives in Houston. As an impressionable young man, he observed their styles and sisterhood closely; King believes his strength and that of his brother Nathaniel are directly derived from their elders’ examples.

“They taught me how to walk, dress, talk and do everything,” King said. “That is the No. 1 factor in my gender expression today – they did it all together with such grace and class.”

King’s mother, a nurse, attended Prairie View A&M University, an HBCU located in Texas. As King was growing up, his mother would speak often about how attending an HBCU set the bar for Black excellence and inspired him to reimagine life at an all-Black university.

“Flying by was not enough for her,” King said. “She was enamored with Black women who would push and inspire her. This helped shape who she wanted to be as a mother and the excellence she would put into her job.”

At the age of 9, King’s mother remarried and moved the family to Kansas City. Living in the Midwest proved a culture shock for the young singer-dancer, but that’s when King developed an interest in acting. Before entering high school, he enrolled in a Shakespeare camp and quickly discovered that arts were his true calling.

After graduating high school, King knew he needed to move to New York in order to fulfill his aspirations. While studying musical theater at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, King encountered how difficult it was for Black queer actors to land roles. When auditioning for off-Broadway or Broadway productions, casting directors often told him to tone down his androgynous appearance.

King recounted, “I was constantly told I needed to adapt and become someone different if I wanted to succeed in this industry,” adding that there had been a great deal of pressure and push and pull in that area of her life.”

King began singing on cruise ships and soon after scored roles in productions of “Rent” and “Fame.” In 2019, he was cast as a day player on FX series “Pose,” though his scene in the ballroom was cut and he only appeared in the background. That moment encouraged the patient thespian to become more secure in himself while waiting for his breakthrough role.

King said of working on “Pose,” that she felt overwhelmed with beauty. She told herself she didn’t have to change, and yet that’s when she became the person fighting against it. The industry is shifting, and stories are being told that resonate with me.”

King concluded, “I feel accepted and there’s a place for me in this world.” Even if it takes me some time to adjust, King plans on remaining true to herself.

King was keenly interested in how “Pose” lead actor Michaela Jae Rodriguez interacted with his cast members while filming, in order to develop strong chemistry between them.

King was struck by how influential his character is to younger viewers after speaking with Nicco Annan, who plays Uncle Clifford on Starz’s hit series “P-Valley.” As King recounted their conversation, Annan, who plays Uncle Clifford as an animated character on “P-Valley,” reminded him of this importance.

“He pulled me aside and we had this beautiful conversation about the significance of what we’re doing here and how important this character is,” King remarked. “His support, his love – it was all so evident. His kindness and wisdom truly filled me with peace at that moment.”

King is also an actor and model for Beyonce’s clothing line, Ivy Park. His image appears in social content from the brand’s Rodeo Collection and King hopes this opportunity will lead to collaborations with his favorite brands – Balmain and Balenciaga – down the line.

The talented entertainer has yet to meet the megastar, but takes great pleasure in sharing one of his images on her Instagram stories.

King expressed her delight, “That was enough for me. If I had had a conversation with Beyonce or even her mother, the world would know. It would probably be at the top of my resume.”

Ryan Murphy, co-creator of “Pose,” handpicked King to star in his upcoming Netflix feature “Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story,” alongside actor Evan Peters. King’s ultimate goal is to become a Black queer superhero.

King is delighted that his role as Nathaniel Hardin on “All American: Homecoming” has gained him more notoriety. With its renewal for another season, King hopes this role can provide more opportunities for Black queer talent to work both onscreen and off.

“That same work must be focused on the other side of the camera,” King said. “There needs to be more Black queer people in casting, studio heads, at networks and writing stories so those stories can be told. Being part of that now is healing for me as a child but knowing that so many other Black queer youth get that opportunity is truly special.”

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