songs with The Game, Dr. Dre, and Jennifer Lopez. “If I write it out, then I tend to think too much. I like to go with my first instinct: I feel like what- ever comes out the first time is what was meant to come out. I feel like God doesn’t make mistakes with me.” As for cutting heads (she’s worked in Atlanta and Philadelphia), Bre-Z’s first big acting break—as rapper Freda Gatz on Empire —came through barbershop connections. But what she got out of the job is much more profound than that. “You get a very different perspective in a barbershop,” says Bre-Z, whose father and grandfather were also barbers. “I came to learn that men are just as vul- nerable and emotional as women, if not more. I was actually able to see men be hurt. I saw them cry. It was eye-opening.” Adds Bre-Z, “I tell my homegirls outside of the shop, you have no idea. You have no idea how men really feel.”

my performance as Coop,” recalls Bre-Z. “These white ladies were so happy that they started kissing me—this was pre- COVID. They kept apologizing for being so emotional, but they were so grateful for this character. With characters like Coop, we are moving closer to a com- mon understanding that we are all just human.” Born Calesha Murray (her grandmother gave her the Bre-Z nickname when she was a baby) and raised in Wilmington, Delaware, Bre-Z credits the veracity she brings to her portrayal of Coop less to her acting chops than to her two side hustles: rapper and barber. “When I rap, it’s strictly free- style,” says

Anita Baker

Bre-Z’s perfect music for …

JUST HANGING OUT: “I’m always in that ’90s R&B mode—Whitney Houston, Anita Baker, Toni Braxton. There was just so much feeling in the music of that era.”

Bre-Z, whose third record came out last year and who has created


GETTING INTO THE ‘COOP’ MINDSET: “I had to shoot a scene the other day that was very emotional, so I sank down and listened to Celine Dion’s ‘Because You Loved Me.’ The guys on set thought that was so funny, but that song just does some- thing to me. It has ever since I was a child. I don’t know why.”

Celine Dion

SETTING A ROMANTIC MOOD: “My latest album, Full Circle , is very romantic. It’s got a song called ‘Dreamin’ that I play all the time.”

A DINNER PARTY : “Xscape’s ‘Just Kickin’ It.’ I just can’t do a party without that one.”

WORKING OUT: “I tend to listen to my own music. It helps me focus.”

Whitney Houston

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