While Andrew Gray and Kelly Mi Li are the latest reality show couple that fans are finding themselves invested in, the buzzed about Bling Empire lothario is a multi-layered actor, producer, and person. Whether it was playing ‘red ranger’ Troy Burrows on Power Rangers Megaforce or working with Hollywood starlets like Kate Bosworth and Marion Cotillard, Gray is keeping his own feet grounded in hurricane that can sometimes be Hollywood and doing his best to remembers what is truly important. I sat down with Gray recently to chat about how Bling Empire came to be, how he’s taking his passion for Star Wars and creating his own world around it, and why displaying your heart can be one of the biggest acts of bravery one can take.
Michael Cook: Bling Empire seems to be all people can talk about nowadays. What made you want to be part of a project that is giving representation to a community that truly deserves it?
Andrew Grey: Kelly and I have been together for seven years and when we first started dating, Kelly was pretty elusive. She was very busy with work, but was also redefining her friendships, her work, etc. She and I started dating and she was developing an idea and had it out to a couple production studios. It was Bling Empire, but it wasnt “Bling Empire” just yet. Everyone enjoyed it and they thought it as a good idea, but it wasn’t structured the way that it needed to be. She was with a good team, and they have had successes but they could not get it where it needed to be.
(Producer) Jeff Jenkins and I have been friends for over a decade and he was mentioning some ideas about getting into lives of families with empires or dynasties, like the Asian community. They do not expose themselves and would not be transparent. I wanted to see Kelly have success and happiness and I have seen how hard she worked on the concept. I had an opportunity at a meeting I was at where I was managing a musical artist. My artist went to the restroom and I pitched Jeff the show. We created a plan of action, he and Kelly met and the rest is history. It has been two years since we started the pilot, and there was a lot of casting, recasting and development.
MC: Is it hard to decide how much you and Kelly are going to put out and expose in your real life that will in turn, be shown by cameras? How do you balance your relationship being successful, but exposing flaws on television?
AG: For me, I need to put all of my flaws on center stage and it’s not going to look good and I am not excusing the behavior. What I need to grow and get out of the way of how I was raised, was my parents supporting Trump which I don’t. I don’t support a President, I support a country. Kelly and I are about having a common goal right now, it’s about us, not me. For thirty years it was a lot of trauma on my heart. I want to show the world that a man falls short, but it’s about how he gets back up. It’s about being my best truest self. Now that you have seen some of my biggest fears revealed, it has been a fantastic learning experience and it has been a gift.
MC: You have a great deal of self-awareness, and for many that end up on a reality television show, the cameras shine a light on issues in the relationship that might not have come to the surface had they not be put on display on a reality show. Did that ever concern you?
AG: Yes and no. At the end of the day, what we shot was reality. There are also things where we were set; when they say it’s reality we know it will be edited for the entertainment, shock, and education value. I knew what I was getting into based on other shows Jeff has developed like Keeping Up With The Kardashians and The Simple Life. I may not like how it is displayed and I may not have liked all of it, I mean there were a lot of tears and feelings of betrayal in cast meetings; this was out first time at this.
When the world does not know your heart, displaying that is a bold thing; you can only grow from it. Kelly and I broke up, even after being together for five years. She was the love of my life, I felt like I was being set up and betrayed. That was fear and the devil playing with my head. I cannot outrun my demons; they will always outrun me. Its up to me to outrun them with forgiveness and mercy; that is where my faith lies and where it is going to stand. I’ve been running from a few things and I am done running. I want to grow; I will be vulnerable and transparent. There is an army of gifts in one failure and I am really just learning that now.
MC: Many will look at you and think that as a model and actor, you “have it all”. But you are a regular person who has dealt with things all of us have, is that fair to say?
AG: Yes, and I am not excusing my behavior. I will take my lashings. I am trying to say that my way is not an aggressive way, but I know what I need to do. I think this is my second chance to prove that to no one but myself. Everything displayed is not how I treat women or how I believe women should be treated, or how I treat Kelly. I am just happy to be part of the process and the journey; there isn’t a destination.
MC: What many would not expect from you is that you are such a massive Star Wars fan you have created your own film and have such a passion for the Lucasfilm world. When do you think you fell in love with it to the point that you wanted to create your own world?
AG: I have always loved film. I have always loved anything that can take you out of the trauma that is going on in the world and your daily routines and life. I had a lot of trauma growing up. Star Wars helped me to go to a place like many films like Willow and Dragon Ball Z. They helped me not forget so much as not have to feel the pressure. They were places I wanted to travel to and wanted to know if they existed.
Being an actor has helped me create with other actors who had the same passions; we are all drama and sci-fi nerds. I met a wonderful man years ago by the name of John Wusah who is also my producing partner and it was his original inception. I was invited in to act, produce, help out, anything. In our eyes, the Star Wars Rebels series on Disney was great, but left a lot of questions. We came up with ways to fill in gaps in stories and in the sizzle reel we created, you saw things you had not seen before, like young Padawan being murdered and a Jedi’s head coming off! You saw some choreography styles you had not seen before, which we all shot in one day.
MC: As a Power Ranger, you were probably one of the performers who, when a child had a special story or experience for you, that is what meant the most to you.
AG: It is just a surreal experience; the answer is yes. I remember the experience myself. I never got to meet the Red Ranger, so I remember being so exited to come home and take myself to a place. I got those messages; l the thing about Power Rangers that remains so beautiful today are still there. Teamwork, together as one; I love how consistent they are. Yes, to see kids dress up as Troy from Mega Force and Super Mega Force is absolutely next level. It makes me tear up; I want to do anything I can for them, from sing ‘Happy Birthday’ or just take a picture. I will do a choreography scene with them and let them wear the helmet! I want them to know that they can also achieve this. They can decide on a passion and let this passion take them somewhere. Like Bling Empire, there is no destination, it is the journey. I want them to fight and know that hard work beats talent nine times out of ten and not get discouraged when they hear a “no”. It is great working with the parents also and seeing their kids light up and hear that stories they tell. It’s a wonderful experience.
MC: What would the Andrew Gray of today tell the Andrew Gray just starting in the entertainment world?
AG: Pursue integrity relentlessly, everything will be okay. God loves you. Patients, character, the simple things. For the longest time, I felt like I needed things,. I don’t need anything I have everything. The Lord has suppled me with it; go after what you want, not what you think you need. That need will bring you to desperation, anger and tears; those things are toxic and lead to bringing out your demons.
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