Adriyan Rae is no stranger to donning many hats. She’s an actress, a singer, a model and a laboratory scientist. Yes, you read that correctly. Adriyan holds not one, but two bachelor’s degrees in Physician Assistant Studies and Medical Laboratory Science from the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. This talented multi-hyphenate’s love of acting blossomed after spending time on set in Atlanta. From there, Adriyan developed quite the resume – she can be seen in FX’s Atlanta starring Donald Glover, Hulu’s Light as a FeatherAmerican SoulStarSuperfly, and more. Currently, she’s in the starring role of Elida on Syfy’s newest space romp Vagrant Queen

Now, I was granted the opportunity to chat with Adriyan, and I’m elated to report that this on-the-rise performer is sweet as punch. We talked about Vagrant Queen (of course), why the show’s breaking TV barriers, releasing new music, her upbringing, and much more. Just from our short conversation, I could tell that Adriyan is burgeoning on “household name” territory. And the galaxy’s the limit. 

DISCLAIMER: Minor spoilers for Vagrant Queen lie ahead. Proceed with caution.

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Adriyan Rae: 
Hi Melody!

Melody McCune:
Hi Adriyan! How are you doing?

AR:
I’m good. I’m very well. How are you?

MM:
I’m good. How is quarantine going for you?

AR:
Quarantine is weirdly easy. It’s odd. I was a homebody already and it was just like, “Oh, okay. This is my normal life except the stores that I would leave the house to go to, they’re not open.”

MM: 
Yep! I feel like this is where my introverted skills come into play, so I understand. All right! Let’s get started. Since we are a geeky site and we love heroes, what’s Adriyan Rae’s origin story? And what prompted you to pursue an acting career?

AR: 
Well, my origin story is that I’m from Seaford, Delaware. I’m one of eight, and I have 20 aunts and uncles and a huge family. I didn’t know anything about acting growing up at all, and I felt people on TV were just in this magical TV land. I didn’t know I could do it – that I could be on TV too. Then, I went to school and majored in physician assistant studies and medical laboratory science studies. Once I graduated I moved to Atlanta to sing.

After moving to sing, I fell into a set. And then when I got on set I was like, “Oh, I like this. People were like, “You’re pretty good. You should keep at it.” I was like, “Nah, it’s not that good.” But, I actually did find a mentor, and he helped train me and things like that. Then, I got onto another set and I was there for 15 hours and I was like, “Okay. Yeah, I love this.” It was definitely where my passion and a career met. It was like I loved being there. I would have done it for free, but thank God they were paying me!

MM:
That’s crazy impressive – two bachelor’s degrees! So what inspired you to start out in the sciences? Did you know anybody involved in that field?

AR:
Well, I have an uncle who was the first person to go to college in my family. He went to school and told me he wanted to be a cardiothoracic surgeon. So ever since I was little I used to talk about how I wanted to be a cardiothoracic surgeon, because he was going to be one. That inspired me, but I always loved science. I always loved to help people. My mother didn’t let me watch the news because I cried all the time if something bad happened to people. She just stopped letting me watch the news.

So, I always wanted to help people. Then as you grow up, your family encourages you to get jobs that have great financial stability and high demand. They were like, “Be a doctor.” And I was like, “Okay.” So that’s why I stuck to it for so long. But I also didn’t look into other fields, because I was like, “I’m going to be a doctor. That’s it.”

MM:
That’s so interesting, how one thing led to another. In addition to acting, you’re a musician. You’re under the tutelage of Michael Keith of 112. What have you learned from him thus far, and can we expect new music from you down the line?

AR:
Yes, I would love to do some new music. I would love that really. From Michael, I learned so much. I call him my sensei. He taught me everything from how to interview, what topics to stay away from, and how to interact with people outside when I’m in public as a public figure. How to do runs and how not to do too many runs to make the song sound crazy. How to find my [musical] keys. He’s brought me so much and I’m so unbelievably grateful for him. I literally love him. He’s like family now.

Photo still of actress Adriyan Rae

Pictured: Adriyan Rae. Photo credit: Diana Ragland

MM:
Did you sing when you were little? Have you performed in public or was this something you just fell into?

AR:
Oh my gosh, girl! I have to tell you this story. I used to think that I was the next big thing, and I was serious about singing and dancing. My mom used to be an apartment manager for this complex. Well, she’s still a manager. But we used to live in these apartment complexes that were lower-income, and I remember I got three girls together and every day I had us writing songs. They were the dumbest songs. But they were songs about love and I had never been in love. I thought I knew what I was talking about.

I was always the leader. And I was like, “Okay you guys. We have a meeting at the library to go over our song and to rehearse our dances.” Then, after rehearsals I would make us go and we would be on my mom’s porch. I would knock on the doors of everyone in the apartment complex and invite them to come watch us. They would give us tips for dancing and lip syncing the songs and doing our own songs.

MM:
That’s adorable!

AR:
I thought I was the next best thing!

MM:
So, let’s talk about Vagrant Queen. First of all, congratulations! I haven’t watched the fourth episode, but I’ve seen the first three and I loved them! Vagrant Queen reminds me of Guardians of the Galaxy meets Farscape. It’s campy. It’s cheesy in the best way. What drew you to the part of Elida, and what was the audition process like for the show?

Still of Adriyan Rae in Vagrant Queen

VAGRANT QUEEN — “Pilot” Episode 101 — Pictured: Adriyan Rae as Elida — (Photo by: Marcos Cruz/Vagrant Productions/SYFY)

AR:
Well, I got the audition through my manager. And instantly I did my research. I went to the comic, which is the source material, read the pilot and I read the sides. After I read the sides, I was off book. I memorized them after reading them once. So I was like, “Oh, she really clicks with me.” She was so relatable. And I genuinely understood her journey and the underlying fight that she was fighting in my audition scene, to have her voice be heard and respected.

So, it’s literally something that I’ve genuinely been going through myself. Finding my own voice. Then when I do find it, having the courage to speak for myself and then stand by it. Not to submit and be like, “Okay, okay, whatever you think.” So it instantly clicked with me for that. It was so relatable and she’s a very loyal, endearing character that I just loved. It combined the comedy, drama, and badass in me. So I was like, “Yeah, definitely.”

MM:
Yeah, I definitely think that’s why she’s so relatable. That whole “finding your voice” aspect and standing strong in that voice. Not being afraid to speak up. I believe that’s something that’ll resonate with a lot of people.

Now, I also want to talk about how this show is essentially shattering glass ceilings left and right by way of diversity and by way of LGBTQIA+ representation. You’re playing this badass, strong woman of color in a leading role on a sci-fi series, which is awesome! Do you feel that this is marking a much-needed revitalization in the entertainment industry, and how has that impacted you on a personal scale?

AR:
I think that it definitely is. It’s one step closer towards breaking through this barrier that’s up in the sci-fi world against diversity in strong people of color and female leads. It’s very rare to see that. And I think that this role definitely is something that’s allowed me to kick the door open and try to hold it open for more people. To show Hollywood, “Yeah, we can do this and we can do it well.”

So it doesn’t have to always look the same. The stories don’t always have to be the same. Everybody doesn’t have to be heterosexual. Everyone doesn’t have to be white. And the stories are still intriguing. They’re still relatable. Plus, you get a new story, a new perspective that you haven’t told before. We’ve been telling the same stories for years so it’s time to switch it up!

MM:
Absolutely! Do you have any favorite set memories from the show?

AR:
Yeah. I mean, I love all of the cast and crew! I think when they all got me a cake on my birthday and surprised me, that was one of my favorite memories. They all sang to me. There was a time with Colin [Moss] where I had to do a scene with him and he gave me his internal monologue to just help me for my coverage. Because we did his coverage and I went all out. And to reciprocate that, he gave me his internal monologue right before they said “action.” And it was just like, “Wow, what a giving thing. What a giving thing.” I feel like I’ve never experienced that. I will never forget Colin for that, or that scene or any of that. It was just an amazing feeling. And the laughs. We laughed so much on that set, so much.

MM:
We briefly touched on this earlier, but are there any similarities between you and Elida? Any differences?

AR:
Yeah, she’s more different in that I’m very open with my emotions and emotional vulnerabilities. Spreading love, being light. Elida, she’s very loving and caring, but she’s going to make you earn that. Whereas I’ll give it to you until you prove to me that you don’t deserve it. So we’re different in that way. But we’re similar in the journey of finding my voice and her finding hers and standing firm in it. Knowing that you’re not wrong in speaking up for yourself and actually not letting someone else talk you out of your own voice.

Also the way she’s loyal to her friends. I mean, she really loves her friends. She’s not the friend that has to talk to you every day for two hours a day for you guys to be considered friends. But once you do talk, whether it’s once a week or once a month, you’ll pick up right where you left off and it’s amazing. So I’m the same way.

MM:
I know you’re probably under super strict spoiler orders, but is there anything you can tease for the remainder of Season 1?

AR:
I will tease that Amae and Elida’s romance grows. I’m thinking that people will get what they want. Maybe.

Still of Adriyan Rae in Vagrant Queen

VAGRANT QUEEN — “Rocket Science” Episode 104 — Pictured: Adriyan Rae as Elida — (Photo by: Riyaaz Dalvie/Vagrant Productions/SYFY)

MM:
I hope so! I’m definitely rooting for them! So, we’re going to veer off topic a little bit. Do you have a dream role? It could be in film, theater, TV, etc. 

AR:
Yeah. I mean, I would love to be in HBO’s Westworld. Would love that. You ever see the film Ex Machina?

MM:
Oh yes. I love that movie.

AR:
I love those types of films. I would love to do something like that. That would be really, really great. Of course, I would love to get into the Marvel world and bring to life a strong, independent black character that we haven’t seen yet. That would be amazing! But yeah, those other ones would be really great too.

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MM:
I’m all for that! Is there someone in your life who pushes you forward? Who inspires you to keep going?

AR:
Yeah, my huge family! They all pushed me and just seeing them excited for me and making them proud, that always pushes me as well. And wanting to be able to have a means that doesn’t drive me crazy and makes me happy, gives me a way to support myself and my family. We didn’t come from much. I remember a time when my little sister, she was like, “Can you just Venmo me a couple of dollars because I can’t get on the bus. I don’t have any money.” I literally cried because I didn’t have that little bit of money to give to her. So having this and being able to help my family in ways that I wasn’t able to before, it really does inspire me to keep going and keep pushing, as well as loving to create.

MM:
That’s wonderful! Do you have any wisdom to share for beginners trying to get their foot in the door?

AR:
Yes. What I always say is train. Train, train, train, and then train some more. Learning the industry will get you into the room. I’ve seen this quote from Brittany from Boomerang. But she said, “Learning the industry will get you in the room. Knowing the craft will keep you there.”

MM:
I’ve heard that before.

AR:
I really believe in that. It’s very true.

MM:
What TV series are you binge-watching right now, since we’re all stuck indoors?

AR:
Well, I can’t binge-watch it because it’s a weekly thing, but Killing Eve is my favorite show.

MM:
Oh, I recap that show for our site! I love it so much!

AR:
It’s so good! I’m currently watching Game of Thrones. I’ve never watched it before. I’m doing some character research, and I was like, “Game of Thrones matches.” So I’m watching Game of Thrones, and I hate Joffrey right now.

MM:
Oh, don’t worry. Something’s going to happen [to him] and I think you’ll enjoy it.

AR:
I know, but it’s taking way too long! Everyone else’s head gets chopped off in five minutes. He’s alive in Season 1 and Season 2. Bro…

MM:
He’s just hanging on for dear life. Well, I’m glad you started that show after the hype started to die down a bit.

AR: 
That’s definitely me. I’ll be watching Tiger King in 2023!

MM:
Well, thank you so much for talking with me today! I’m really enjoying your performance in Vagrant Queen.

AR:
Aw, thank you.

MM:
I’m so excited to see where you go. I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day! Stay safe, and stay well!

AR:
You too. And thank you so much for interviewing me. Have an amazing day!

Follow Adriyan on Instagram: @adriyanrae

Vagrant Queen stars Adriyan Rae, Tim Rozon, and Alex McGregor. New episodes air every Thursday at 11pm on your Syfy affiliate. 

 

This was originally published 4/26/20