Walking onto Tyler Perry’s sprawling studios in Atlanta, Georgia is both simultaneously captivating and breathtaking. Nestled under tall trees and green hills, the winding roads lead to a life-sized White House (built just for BET’s hit show, The Oval,) then a small picturesque neighborhood, and then another breathtaking-styled mansion.
The front door swing open and leads to a grand staircase inside the stately manor. To the right is a formal dining room with enough space to seat six comfortably. Immediately, the sound of mingled voices takes over the space and suddenly a group of spirited, young children enter the room commenting on all the snacks and drinks that are overflowing the table. This is where the cast of Perry's latest show, Young Dylan (starring Dylan Gilmer) awaits to be interviewed.
Tyler Perry has dominated comedy, drama and now he’s ready to delve into an entirely different category with a new kids show now on Nickelodeon. Young Dylan follows an 11-year-old, aspiring rapper who moves into his aunt Yasmine (Mieko Hillman) and uncle Myles’ (Carl Anthony Payne) house after being under the care of his grandmother (Aloma Wright) all these years. Coming from the streets of Chicago, Dylan has to learn how to adapt to the straight-laced lifestyle that comes naturally to his cousins Rebecca (Celina Smith) and Charlie (Hero Hunter).
Not only is Dylan teaching swag and street smarts to this new side of his family, but Rebecca’s best friend Bethany (Jet Miller) is also along for the ride.
Gilmer is one of the breakout stars of this show. The Annapolis, Maryland native first went viral when his father posted a video of the two of them singing along to Bryson Tiller’s “Don’t” in 2017. Daytime talk show host Ellen DeGeneres caught wind of the video and has been following and supporting Gilmer ever since.
Known for rapping covers of songs from Travis Scott to DJ Khaled and Meek Mill, Gilmer also made a special appearance at the 2017 NBA All-Star Weekend and Nickelodeon’s 90’s revival All That.
Perry surprised Dylan in October 2019 on Ellen to announce the exciting news that he wanted to give the young star his own live-action series.
“To be on one of his shows that he wrote and produced with Nickelodeon is a dream come true,” says Gilmer. “I have met a lot of new friends being on the show. They appreciate me and respect me, and I respect them also.”
Considering himself still a "rookie," after celebrating his 11th birthday on Wednesday (March 4) Dylan says that not only does he feel grown, but even more, he feels motivated.
“I have a lot of confidence in myself. I’m more independent now. I have learned new [things] and [have] responsibilities.”
The multigenerational, all-Black cast still represents Perry’s familiar ad-libs and humor, mainly from Dylan’s interactions with his cousins Rebecca and Charlie which result in hilarious one-liners back-and-forth between grandma. Viola. The blended Wilson family tries to tackle lifestyle clashes as they all work together to get on the same page while remembering the importance of putting family first.
Young Dylan is more than just a good laugh, it’s also a conversation starter with episodes that promise to tackle present-day societal issues.
“There are some family issues and I think it teaches us that you can love and support someone who is not born into your immediate family,” says Wright. “We should look around to see where we can be more useful, where can I help in any way, in any situation and step up to the plate and do that.”
Learning from a seasoned cast, newcomers Gilmer, Smith, and Miller all confirm that both Carl Anthony Payne (formally of Martin) and Aloma Wright (formally of Days of Our Lives) have given them a few tips on how to have longevity in this industry.
“Mr. Carl taught me a lot of things,” Gilmer says. “I just started acting. He’s always taught me, make sure that you always face the camera. If I am talking to someone, my face is turned to there (the front) but my body is supposed to be turned to the camera. [He] gives me tips all of the time.”
Smith proudly creds Wright for teaching her to be professional in the workplace and Miller thanks her for keeping her relaxed when she speaks her lines.
“If we are on set and I spit out words and I mess up and try covering it, Ms. Aloma calms me down and tells me it’s okay,” Miller says.
Despite having veterans on set, Hillman and Wright do say that the presence of the young cast keeps the workday energized.
“There’s an innocence in children that you don’t find in adults,” Wright said. “It’s refreshing to see them communicate with each other and communicate with me.”
As for the nostalgia, Hillman appreciates how her younger co-stars take her down memory lane from time to time.
With the majority of the cast no older than 11-years-old, these little role models are paving the way for their peers that look like them.
“I am excited for young girls to see this because they can look at us and say ‘Oh, this is something that I want to do when I get older,” says Smith.“Maybe not acting, but maybe they see us doing what we’re doing right now maybe [they will say] ‘I want to be like them when I grow up.’
Catch Tyler Perry's Young Dylan every Saturday on Nickelodeon at 8:30 PM EST.
(Photo: Chip Bergmann. Copyright 2020 Tyler Perry Studios)