Getting to know the ladies of ‘Star’
Jude Demorest, Ryan Destiny and Brittany O’Grady bring real-life situations to their roles
Jude Demorest, Ryan Destiny and Brittany O’Grady have been wooing viewers for two seasons now on Fox’s music-themed drama Star, created by film director and producer Lee Daniels.
The storyline follows the journey of a girl group named Take 3 as they navigate the cutthroat music industry with their manager and mother figure Carlotta (Queen Latifah).
In casting the girls in the group, Daniels wanted race to be in viewers’ faces without apology. Daniels, who is also behind films such as The Butler (2013) and Precious (2009) and TV hit Empire, cast Demorest (Star Davis), 26, as the white girl from the ’hood; O’Grady, 21, as Star’s half-black sister Simone; and Destiny, 23, as the rich black girl Alex.
“Star is an inspirational and cautionary tale about the dangers of ambition and not working on yourself before reaching for fame,” said Demorest. “You can get stuck in the darkness really quick.”
Demorest relates to her character and brings her true-life situations to the series. The Detroit native describes Star as driven, hurt and aggressive and relates to her character in the sense that both are “delusional.”
“What I mean by that is Star is able to imagine herself out of a situation and I’ve done that my whole life,” Demorest said.
Growing up in predominantly black neighborhoods as a foster care kid, she attended more than 10 schools. She fueled her faith at church, where she learned dance, drama and choir. At 16, she headed to Los Angeles with no car or place to live to pursue acting, but music got ahold of her first. She signed with Epic Records, where she co-wrote the hit “Work From Home” for Fifth Harmony. She later landed roles on television series such as Jonas and Dallas before Star.
“Alex is a realist but ambitious,” Destiny said of her character. “There’s passion behind what she does. She was born to be an entertainer and knows it, and I feel the same way.” Destiny is also from Detroit and the daughter of Deron Irons of ‘90s rhythm and blues group Guesss, which first hit the music scene as part of the group Love Dollhouse under Russell Simmons’ All Def Music label (the group parted ways in 2015).
Destiny’s backstory includes facing colorism in high school. Among her group of friends, she was the only one with dark skin and she’d receive backhanded compliments such as, “You’re pretty for a dark-skinned girl.” She’s even more comfortable in her skin now from working with model Naomi Campbell, who plays her mother in the series, and gives her a super-model on how to reflect strength, confidence and pride within your own hue.
Because of O’Grady’s last name, people assume that she will look like the typical Irish woman. When they meet her in person, they assume she is Latina and speaks Spanish. As a half-white, half-black girl from Northern Virginia, she takes pride that for the first time she gets to play her own race on television while acting in Star. Deep, sensitive and irritable are the three words O’Grady attributes to her character, Simone, who has a quieter demeanor than the other members of the group, along with a history of alcohol and substance abuse. O’Grady was on a theater scholarship at Pepperdine University when she got the call to audition for Star. Before Star, she had roles in Trophy Wife, The Night Shift and The Messengers, and as early as 4 years old she appeared in national ad campaigns in Washington, D.C.
The Undefeated linked up with the trio in New York City to talk about working with Queen Latifah, how they stay “woke” and being starstuck when meeting Isiah Thomas, Snoop Dogg and Misty Copeland.
How has it been working with Queen Latifah?
Demorest: For us, it has been watching and learning from the best.
Destiny: She is definitely one of the realest, for sure. She pulls us aside and gives her advice as a person, actress and musician.
O’Grady: We have so much respect for her and her process, and she gives it right back to us.
What’s your go-to karaoke song?
Demorest, Destiny (singing in unison): Turn around, every now and then I get a little bit lonely and you’re never coming around, turn around [Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart”].
O’Grady: “I Believe In A Thing Called Love” by The Darkness.
Have you ever been starstruck?
Demorest: It really took me off guard when I met [retired NBA player] Isiah Thomas at the Four Seasons in Atlanta because I was wearing him on my shirt that day. And also, Ms. Tina [Beyoncé and Solange’s mom] at the Essence Festival. She held my hand, and I’m still in awe of that moment!
Destiny: I’m a huge Snoop Dogg fan. We were at the same hotel, and I don’t know what happened, but all I got out of my mouth was, “You’re, you’re …” I couldn’t get any other words out.
O’Grady: I met Misty Copeland at the premiere of our second season. I was so excited because she’s superinspirational and has really paved the way for black ballerinas. I was like, “Are you Misty Copeland?” And then another time was when I first moved to L.A. I was 17 and behind Zac Efron in line for popcorn at the movie theater.
First concert you went to?
Demorest: The Hope Filled Tour with Donnie McClurkin, Yolanda Adams and Kirk Franklin. And Mary Mary performed that weekend too.
Destiny: A Destiny’s Child concert. I was just ‘destined’ for it, ha!
O’Grady: Harry Connick Jr., my parents were big fans. My second was American Idol during Fantasia’s season. I just love her!
Most frequently used emoji?
Demorest: Prayers hands, which is not a high-five or clap!
Destiny: The alien.
O’Grady: The heart.
Favorite throwback TV show?
Demorest, Destiny, O’Grady [in unison]: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Destiny: … but you can’t forget about The Proud Family!
If you could be any athlete, dead or alive, who would you be?
Demorest: Isiah Thomas.
Destiny: Allen Iverson.
O’Grady: One of the athletes from the first Jamaican bobsled team. I remember the [1993 Walt Disney] movie Cool Runnings that was based on their story. I’m not the biggest sports fan, but that story is remarkable.
How do you “stay woke”?
Demorest: Staying woke in this day in age is so much about being willing to learn and listen, and never closing your eyes and ears to what’s happening around you and strangers who have zero connection to you. Sometimes we’re so focused on being able to relate to a situation or a person that we forget that being woke is not about that. It’s about recognizing right versus wrong and constantly learning.
Destiny: It’s hard not to be woke with it constantly in your face on social media. It can be a little depressing with how much unfortunate and unfair realities are happening in the world. When you want to speak up on something, do it. But never feel pressured to, because that’s not good either.
O’Grady: Being woke is about being open to other people’s perspective. Not everyone is going to think the way you do, but you have to internalize what the person’s perspective and values are and where they are coming from. Staying woke is about making sure everyone feels loved and respected, and that’s something I value.
I owe my sister a lot because she’s supersmart and keeps me woke. I had a lot of privilege as a biracial girl. I didn’t experience racism like most of my peers. My sister and I have really acknowledged that as we got older and we take responsibility in educating people who are racially ignorant. We all have our own privilege, but we have to stand up for those who do not have that privilege and are still paving their own path.