It is in no way hyperbole to call me a superfan of “The Wire”. I’ve watched all sixty episodes twice. I’ve sat and had long discussions with friends and associates alike on the way the show depicts governmental politics, inner city schools, drugs, unions/ blue collar jobs, Baltimore, and homosexuality. I got a copy of show creator David Simon’s “Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets” and watched the entire 1990s NBC “Homicide” series it inspired. “The Wire” also got me on to “Treme”, and has led me to becoming a fangirl of its actors. Michael K. Williams as Omar is a revelation; so is his turn as Chalky White in “Boardwalk Empire”. I followed Wendell Pierce from Baltimore, down to NOLA and even on up to New York City for Michael J. Fox’s shortlived NBC sitcom.
And whenever I’d come across a story online about any of “The Wire” cast, I made sure to Tweet it out. A few weeks ago, while going through my RSS feed, I saw a link to a short story on The Root about actor Tray Chaney, and after a quick read, clicked on the little blue birdie. To my surprise, Tray favorited that tweet and then followed me.
My day was made. Poot was following me.
That would have been that, but… well, I’m me, and I had questions. I know he’s a busy dude and all, but feeling emboldened by his follow, I asked him if he’d be down for a “Creatives Space” feature. I have a theory that most creative folks are creative in more than one area, so I love to see painters who write poetry, or poets who play an instrument.
“WPGC 95.5 here in Washington DC is the radio station that’s been supporting a new single I have called “I Want To”. I’m constantly up there for music meetings.”
So far, everyone I’ve interviewed has confirmed my theory. Tray, who besides being an actor, is also a rapper. He’s a talent monster, actually. Let’s get to it:
EOE: Tell me about your childhood. Were you into performing back then? If yes, what type? Acting? Rapping? Dancing?
TC: I had a great childhood. It was always me, dad, mom & my sister. I was blessed to have great examples as parents/family life. I was a Hip Hop dancer back in the day. I was winning shows at the Apollo in NYC when I was 8 years old, so yes, entertainment has always been a part of my life.
EOE: You are best known for playing the role of Poot on the critically acclaimed HBO show “The Wire”. By the way, I am a huge fan. Like many, I discovered “The Wire” after it had wrapped, binging on the series through the DVDs. Thanks to streaming, and HBO’s recent HD remastering of the show, there continues to be a great interest in the series. Did you have any idea when you were first cast that you were playing a part in something so huge?
TC: I feel I’m speaking for the entire cast when I say we knew we were a part of something special but didn’t know it would blow up to be so huge like it is. I’m blessed to say playing the role as Malik “POOT” Carr on “The Wire” for five years without getting killed off was a blessing. To be a part of such a powerful and impactful show is an honor.”
EOE: Are you anything like Poot? Why or why not?
TC: No, I’m nothing like POOT. POOT was a follower and usually got told what to do a lot. Tray Chaney is a leader, father, husband and a provider for my family. Two totally different people but playing the role was great.
EOE: What (if any) life lessons did you learn during your time on “The Wire”?
TC: Some of the life lessons I’ve learned is just to be humble and always try as much as I can to inspire, motivate individuals to be the best they can be. “The Wire” was such a realistic show and it connected with people around the world so I’ve used the platform to only put out positive energy especially living in a tough world where people want/need motivation more than anything.
“Knottyland Music Pre-Production studio is where most of the songs you hear like “Dedicated Father”, “Attendance”, “Live World AIDS Anthem” were created, written & recorded!”
EOE: I’ve read about how some other “Wire” alum like Wendell Pierce and Sonja Sohn have become active in social improvement programs in the last few years, and was impressed when I learned about your new “#Attendance” music video. Can you share about this?
TC: Well, I’m starting to become known for putting out positive initiative songs/videos and “ATTENDANCE” was something I really wanted to make sure our youth connected with. It’s basically sharing a message through Hip Hop about how important it is for our youth to always be present in school and take education seriously. I’m fortunate to be an independent artist having freedom to put out messages like this. “Attendance” is actually my 12th video.
EOE: What was school like for you as a kid? What kind of student were you? What was your favorite subject?
TC: School was sorta rough. I grew up in Forestville, MD, right outside of Washington, DC. I experienced a lot of violence in school, always being bullied and fighting, but I had parents, teachers, and administrators always in my ear giving me great advice. I was fortunate to always turn negatives into positives and I don’t regret nothing I’ve been through. It made me the man I am today. Math was my favorite subject.
EOE: How long have you rapped? Do you write your own songs?
TC: I’ve been rapping since [I was] 18 years old, but I really didn’t start taking it serious until 2012, a couple years after “The Wire” ended when I actually had time to focus on subject matters and concepts for videos. Yes, I write my own material.
EOE: Who are your musical influences?
TC: Love Jay-Z , Kanye, Kendrick Lamar, Drake, J. Cole just to name a few. I’m just a huge fan of music whether its Rap, R&B, Rock ‘N’ Roll.
EOE: Obviously with acting, you’re playing a part. But does this also occur with your music? Are we getting the real Tray when we listen?
TC:Yes, you’re getting the real Tray Chaney when you see my videos and hear my music. I’ve always from day one wanted to express my music in a way of telling the truth. Songs like “Fatherhood” and “Dedicated Father”- this is my real life. Songs like “Attendance”, and “Live World AIDS Anthem”, I’m really trying to educate people with these messages. So, yes that’s me all day. The negativity you hear and see in music these days is not me. I can’t lie to the fans as if I’m someone I’m not.”
EOE: You’re a dad. I love the message in your videos “Fatherhood” and “Dedicated Father”. How does being a parent influence your music?
TC: My son is 8 and I truly feel when he was born in 2006 that’s the moment I knew I had to set an example for him as a man. With my music, he is a huge influence because not only am I entertaining but I’m educating as well. I make music that he can listen to and it’s still gonna have a sound that’s relevant. Malachi is a huge influence.
EOE: As if acting and music isn’t enough, you’re an author, too! Do you sleep? Lol, seriously how do you manage all your projects?
TC: Lol well this is what I do for a living, So I have time to manage and balance everything. I never start a project that I can’t finish so I take my time with everything from being a musician, author, actor, philanthropist. All my stuff has 100 percent time and effort put into it so it will have an effect.
EOE: What’s next? Sculpting? Dance? 😉
TC: LOL My wife has actually been showing me how to design because she is a fashion designer! Also, [I] cook so who knows I may have a cook book out soon. LOL
“Constantly on the set of my new TV show called “RISE”. I play the character ‘Kai Finley’. These are some of the camera crew members. The show will premiere in 2015.”
EOE: From stalking, uh er, observing your Instagram, I see you attend Bible study. What role does your faith play in your music?
TC: Well I grew up a Jehovah’s Witness so I feel being a part of this religion. I’m comfortable with it. [It] does play a role in the positive music I put out.
EOE: What are you listening to right now? What are you watching?
TC: I love J Cole’s album and I’m watching “The Walking Dead” and “Empire”. I love those shows.
EOE: What advice would you give to the Class of 2015?
TC: Put God first and dream, believe and achieve whatever goals you set! It’s not easy, but if you work hard and have determination it will happen.
EOE: Where do you see yourself in seven years?
TC: Seven years….running my company, Chaney Vision Ent., a full service entertainment and media company, and continuing to inspire the world.
EOE: Tell me something random about you?
TC: I hate when it’s dishes in the dishwasher- not even one spoon or fork. I will hurry up and wash it. LOL
A huge thank you to Tray for this interview. Scroll down to watch his videos for “Attendance”, “Dedicated Father” and “Money In My Walk”. You calso follow him on Twitter, Instagram or head on over to mrtraychaney.com.