Get ready, ‘Empire’ fans. Preacher Azal is about to come on the scene. HollywoodLife talked EXCLUSIVELY with actor Kade Wise about his new character, how he snagged the role after two years of auditions, and more!
Empire is known for introducing us to great musical and acting talents, and the character of Preacher Azal is no different. Kade Wise will be making his debut as the new character on the April 25 episode. Preacher is a politically-conscious Muslim rapper who will be working closely with Jamal and Tory Ash.
HollywoodLife hopped on the phone with Kade ahead of his Empire debut to chat about all things Preacher Azal. Kade has been auditioning for roles on Empire for two years, but the wait was worth it. Preacher Azal is a unique character who is going to make an impact. Check out our full Q&A with Kade below!
Who is Preacher Azal and how is he going to fit into the world of Empire?
Kade Wise: Before Preacher got involved with some of the Empire folks, he was a politically driven Muslim rapper. The story is that he’s this artist that Empire tried to sign a year prior but never gave him a shot because he wanted to stay true to the respected craft of hip hop. That’s until Jamal, dealing with his trauma of accidentally killing someone a few episodes prior, he’s not feeling very inspired musically. He and Tory Ash decide to start a band, and they want to start this live instrumentation-focused band. They need a rapper for the group, so they go and find Preacher Azal. There’s a lot of pushback. They definitely have the type of chemistry that has a lot of ranting back and forth. Preacher is the guy who’s always calling out Jamal in different ways. Preacher gives him a lot of flack for being this hip hop privileged royalty type of guy that comes from money and questions his integrity. I think Preacher adds a lot of flavor.
Your role on Empire has been two years in the making. What can you say about that?
Kade Wise: I auditioned for Empire for the first time about two years ago. Funny enough, Lil Romeo, Master P’s son, got the role. That was a great segue to open me up to the Empire family. That was two years ago. Then I auditioned for another role that some other dude who had a much bigger resume than I have did , so he got the role. I’ve auditioned for Star as well. I developed a nice relationship with Lee Daniels Butler, who is the casting director for the show, and she’s definitely always supported me. Little by little, different producers from the team saw my material and audition takes from the past. I developed that sense of familiarity with them. Then this role came out of nowhere back in November and then I think they started seeing people in the beginning of December. This one was for a white rapper role, kind of a like a Slim Shady type. I felt they were a little flexible on the ethnicity, so I went in and did get callback from that. Turns out, I didn’t get that role. They were really looking for a Slim Shady. But talk about right place, right time. One of the people in the room was a guy named Brett Mahoney, who just got promoted to showrunner recently. At that callback, I just brought so much passion and left it all in the room. Even though I wasn’t right for that part, I did hear the next day that they liked me so much, but they said they have to try and figure out a way to get me into the show. They were maybe thinking of potentially writing something in. I had never heard that before in my life. I’m still an up-and-coming actor, so I didn’t know those things were possible. Four weeks later, right after the new year, I just got that call. They followed up on their word. They wrote me into the season. It was badass.
Did you take any inspiration form toher well known rappers?
Kade Wise: Kendrick Lamar was definitely an inspiration. JAY-Z was definitely an inspiration. I’m from Brooklyn, JAY’s from Brooklyn. I use to intern at JAY-Z’s record company when I was in high school. A lot of that upbringing really inspired what I brought to the character. They wrote Preacher as a politically driven Muslim rapper. In terms of his attitude, he’s very much about keeping the integrity and putting out the right message. I would say that he’s the voice of reason, but he definitely has a chip on his shoulder. He’s got a little bit of a prick attitude about him. I think one thing I do like about Preacher more than anything is that I brought so much heart and warmth to the character. Even though he’s got a slick mouth here and there, even though him and Jamal get into it, there’s still love there. That’s what’s most important because I do believe that, slowly but surely, he does start to care about this guy, and I’m very curious to see where they go with it.
You’ve obviously worked with Jussie and Rumer, have you worked with the rest of the cast?
Kade Wise: I only had one scene that had Lucious and Cookie in it. It’s the most epic scene ever. There’s a lot of hype for Jamal’s band, and we’re definitely going to prove some people room wrong and come through clutch when the time is right. You’ll see what I mean. We really help out the Empire family.
Is there a character you would want to have scenes with in the future?
Kade Wise: My boy Thirsty, Andre Royo. He is the coolest, most humble guy ever. I hung out with him multiple off set having drinks. Every single time I was with him, there were at least 5 to 10 people that would stop him and praise him and ask for an autograph or photo. It was all so genuine. He never once acted like he was too good to talk to anyone. He’s a really cool guy and gave me so much sound advice and encouragement. I really like that guy.
What’s something you’ve learned about yourself as an actor after this experience?
Kade Wise: I think some of it is what Andre instilled in me, which is believing in yourself. The way that I believe in myself is on a much higher frequency now. I feel like no matter what set I go on, I deserve to be there. I feel like I’m ready for what’s bigger and better.
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