Andrea-Rachel Parker is good at keeping secrets. The Brooklyn, NY native has had a stellar 2017, with break-out roles on two of the biggest shows of the TV season. But before she was making Power fans gasp as the demure Destiny, or watchers of HBO’s neophyte The Deuce swoon over Bernice, she didn’t even tell her family that she was making her debut on TV.
“I didn’t tell my dad, I wanted that to be a big surprise,” she tells BET.com. “I don’t even think I told him when Power was actually coming out with their first episode of season four. Sometimes you know you’ve booked a certain thing, you’ve shot a certain thing but they don’t keep all of it. And so, I didn’t know what they were going to really keep and I hadn’t gone to any screening or premiere or a preview so I just wanted to be really tight-lipped, so when he saw it he [could] just be proud.”
But word got out fast as Tarik’s girlfriend Destiny quickly became one of the most intriguing (and hated) characters on the show. The virility of her betrayal (no spoilers!) was the perfect set up for her debut on The Deuce, HBO’s drama set in the seedy '70s about the rise of the porn industry.
So how did she get here? The 5-foot-1 multi-talent is standing tall and has big plans for more “power” moves in 2018. But she gave BET the inside track on how she went from Britney Spears commercials to getting romantic with the most hated teenager on TV.
You started out making commercials. How did you book your first gigs?
The first few commercials I got, they were really about just being hungry, a new actress, and grinding. So I did whatever I [could] to kind of stay in the loop to figure out what was going on. Some things I got through the grape vine. I did a MTV commercial for Britney Spears’ Radiance. That was kind of being at the right place at the right time. I met one of the casting directors for MTV and then she shot an email out and [I] just put it out there like, “Hey I’m free, I’m available.” I don’t recommend this but I ditched school that day just so that I could go do that commercial and from there we always stayed in contact and it was really fun. It was the first commercial [where] I really got to talk a lot and have a lot of personality so that was fun. [Then] I did a Cyndi Lauper commercial and that was kind of just staying in the loop again. At that point I had signed up for everything that you could think of, Casting Networks, Backstage, mandy.com. I think on one of those websites is how I found out about the Cyndi Lauper commercial and they weren’t paying a lot, they were looking for extras with like one or two to be featured. I got a little featured spot and got to meet her and she was lovely. It was like in the middle of a heat wave and I got fried. The next major one was in 2016 for Mylan it was the “Face Your Risk” commercial which really pushed the EpiPen and the use of that because people go into shock over allergies. That was my first taste of controversy.
What made it controversial?
Well because at that time I think the company Mylan decided to put the EpiPen up for like $600 or something like right after the commercial was released [and] everyone thought the commercial was to scare people into getting the EpiPen for this new cost. So people were really upset about that. But I understood.
Did you have representation or are you just grinding on your own?
For the MTV, for the Cyndi Lauper, for a lot of things before the Mylan I was just kind of doing it on my own that’s why I was signing up for every acting website that I could find or that I’d heard about and that’s why I kind of just stayed in the loop. That’s why I’m so willing to do something as bad as ditch school — I don’t recommend it at all, stay in school. But I did it because I know that there weren’t too many opportunities like that were going to present themselves to me and my situation being that I didn’t have an agent. So, I kind of like stuck my foot wherever they would let me like dabble in.
You actually filmed The Deuce before Power, though it aired afterward. How did you get that role?
Yeah The Deuce, that was an exciting time because I’d heard about the project for so long and I really wanted to be a part of the project and get on board. I thought they had stopped casting and I didn’t know they were still going to be seeking any prominent roles. So when my manager called me, shout out to Jenevieve, I was excited but I had to do this really heavy accent and I wasn’t sure if I was going to too southern. I kind of did this character in my head and I kind of just went for it and then I got into the audition room and I completely freaked out because there were so many people who were like straight from North Carolina coming in to audition. I was like, “Wait, I haven’t been there in like a few years and you know like I wasn’t born in North Carolina so maybe I’m kind of frauding it.” Then after I did the audition I got a call back from my manager saying that I booked it. The next thing I knew I was getting my wardrobe fitting calls and I was just like this is real.
And how did you come to be Destiny on Power?
I was in a frantic like state because The Deuce just wrapped, I didn’t know what my next project was going to be and I was becoming a little bit restless. It was something that I always dreamt of being a part of because I love the storyline of Power. I was excited but then I was just like, “Wait, they’re speaking about someone who’s drop dead gorgeous and I don’t think I’m going to fit that particular Hollywood mold of gorgeous.” I also thought at the time the character was going to be similar to The Deuce based off of the description. So, I got nervous that I was like falling into the typecasting. But I was like, you know what? I’m just going to have fun because at least in the audition it’s another opportunity to act. And yeah, I auditioned and I didn’t think I was going to get it, I was like “I’m not going to look this young, I’m not going to be pretty enough, skinny enough, I don’t have light eyes.” [But] I got a call back a few days later and they were just like, “You booked it.” I was like, “Wait, no call back no nothing?” And they were like, “No, you got it just straight through and through” and I was like, “Oh my God.” So, this ended up being the second project that was major that I booked without having to do a callback. It kind of made me feel a little bit more validated [about] being in this path and really just going for it. I felt a little more solidified in the fact I can really call myself a working actress. I’m a working actress now.
So, what did you learn about yourself as an actress working on both of those shows?
That’s a really good question. When the going gets tough, you just gotta keep going; I learned that I can do that, I learned that I’m OK with that. I learned that a lot of things that other people, they’re a little bit more timid or shy or afraid to do, I don’t see it the same way. I’m very open in my beliefs and my perceptions and my ideas and my vision.
When did it ever get tough?
It gets tough often. Being on set is not super easy. Obviously I’m with great networks with both Starz and HBO. They do everything in their power to keep the cast comfortable, but it never is like super easy every single time. On The Deuce we shot in like really cold weather, sometimes it was raining, you just had a back-to-back shoot and you’re just tired and you’re really out of it. I broke out into hives on the set of Power and it wasn’t anyone’s fault, it was bad timing. I had oil on my face previously and then the makeup they used had a lot of oil and they put an oily moisturizer on before the makeup so I broke out into hives and that was a very scary experience because that was the first time that I ever experienced it. And so, it was on the set of Power and everybody on Power is pretty and beautiful and gorgeous, and I was just freaking out because I was like, “No I don’t want to look like this on camera.” But they did a really good job of making me feel better, making sure that nothing was really seen on camera and giving me meds and ice and stuff like that to just cool my skin and calm it down. Things can happen and you just have to be willing to just push through it.
What advice would you have for aspiring actresses after your experiences thus far?
Keep going, don’t make any excuses, don’t let anyone discourage you and I know all these things sound really cliché but I mean them. No one told me that I was going to be here, no one thought that they saw me on Power, on HBO’s The Deuce besides my managers and even that was a long time coming as far as getting managers, getting an agent, getting people you know who are really a part of my team and I think that you just have to believe in yourself more than life itself. You kind of just have to keep pushing and you have to visualize it and know that it’s meant for you, and if you’re good at it, if you’re working on it, and if you’re putting it out in the atmosphere it’s going to come back to you. I also believe in creating your own material and I think now there’s so many resources available to us that if you have something in your heart and you’re not able to book it, if you’re not able to be a part of these characters and stories that you see that you like, create something specifically for you. Issa Rae did it and I’m a believer in it and I want to get my own work out there too so, that’s my advice.
(Photo: Angela Weiss/WireImage)