Skyh Alvester Black on dance, ‘Lace’ and ‘All the Queen’s Men’

Credit: Leigh Keily

A rising triple threat, Skyh Alvester Black has been busy! He can be seen starring as fan-favorite Jacobi on the hit Tyler Perry-produced BET series, “Sistas,” as well as starring opposite Don Cheadle and Regina Hall in Showtime’s critically acclaimed drama series “Black Monday.” He will next star in AMC’s new legal drama, “Lace,” as attorney Othello Charles .

Most recently, he can be seen starring as the leading man on BET+’s “All the Queen’s Men,” created by Tyler Perry Studios. The show follows Madam (Eva Marcille), a fierce businesswoman and self-proclaimed boss at the top of her game in the nightclub industry and surrounded by a band of trusted employees who work to ensure her success, who soon discovers that more money and more power means more problems. Skyh stars as Amp, Madam’s nephew with a hidden past who has found difficulty getting hired after being released from prison and goes to work as a bouncer in Madam’s club, Eden, and is reluctantly lured into the world of exotic dancing.  

Check out my interview with Skyh!

How does it feel now that the season has dropped and people are getting to see it?

Skyh: It feels great. It really does feel great. It’s surreal. We filmed it in the middle of a pandemic. We filmed it once in November, December and it was originally eight half hour episodes and then we got a call after the holiday saying, ‘Hey, Tyler loves it so much that he wants to extend it to 10 hour-long episodes, so you guys had to come back and reshoot.’ So, it really feels great, when you put your work into something, put all your energy into it and just hope that people like it.

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So, other than it being a Tyler Perry production, what sold you on being a part of it?

Skyh: When I first got it, it was back pre pandemic, so I was parking cars from 7:30 at night to 3:30 in the morning so I could audition during the day. So to me it was, I wanted to work. I’ll be completely transparent, as an actor, you just want to work and want to find great material. And what I loved about it was, at first, it was challenging, because my audition scenes were, if you have watched the show, it’s when I’m getting out of prison. There’s also the follow ups when I’m getting slapped by my ex-girlfriend’s mother. We had dialogue but it was a lot of reaction, and so that sold me. I said hey, this kid must be going through a lot and the circumstances sold me on it. I mean, being in prison for nine years, coming out at 28, you’re trying to readjust to this whole new world. What usually sells me on projects is the layering and the circumstances in which, how do I affect the meat of the story? That’s why it was challenging because there wasn’t a lot of unnecessary dialogue, it was a lot of just feeling, and the reactions to what’s going on in the scene. So I was like, ‘okay, I’m sold! I’m a sucker for good storytelling.

And that’s one thing that Tyler Perry’s productions are really good at those nonverbal moments.

Skyh: Right, you have to fill it up. And I always say the best acting is when you’re not acting at all, you’re just reacting to what’s going on around you, that’s everyday life.

You play Amp, and we really see him as this troubled man turned exotic dancer- who is Amp to you?

Skyh: To me, he’s a kid that is trying to adjust to life and not to make the same mistakes that he made as a teenager. Amp is 28 years old, so he went in for nine years. That was what, 19? ‘All the Queen’s Men,’ is current day, so aroudt 2012 , if we just think about technology, it was nowhere near as advanced, and Amp wasn’t a bad kid. He went in as this star athlete succumbing to the pressure of his elitist parents and he had a drinking problem. And I personally saw Amp wrestle with guilt. He’s struggling with guilt, he’s struggling with trying to be better, he’s trying to find redemption, and that is who Amp is to me. He’s a regular kid that with one mistake, his life changed forever. So he’s trying to redeem himself and in essence, get his power back to feel validated again.

In reading your bio, you have a really impressive dance background. How does that help you with your acting? 

Skyh: Oh, tremendously. I think if I hadn’t been a dancer, I wouldn’t be a good actor. Because dancing has allowed me to understand the camera, first and foremost. And just control over your body, and how to really, really be in a moment because you’re on stage for most of your career, especially if you’re tour, not filming music videos or anything but if you’re on tour, you’re in the moment. And in order to portray that emotion of the song, or whatever you’re trying to do for the audience at that time, you have to be in the moment. So, that is an amazing skill that I’ve take into my acting. I prep, I prep, I prep and then I’m ready to go. And I really just immerse myself in the moment of the current circumstance. And that has really really helped me to just live and be free. For me, the camera is a safe space. 

Did you have a favorite style of dance?

Skyh: You know what, I didn’t necessarily have a favorite style. I had a style that I actually wanted to conquer. And that was ballet. Ballet, for anyone who doesn’t know, is a very athletic art form, and you’re striving for this ultimate perfection that doesn’t exist. So, it gives you this drive and it gives you this hunger for more. And that is why I loved it. And I also think I wouldn’t say I have a favorite, because I love it all, but the one that just puts a fire in me for its athleticism, when you’re trying to better this and better that and continue to grow, Ballet would definitely be it… I never thought I would be a ballet dancer. Actually, I had a teacher who, I went to an arts high school, actually a black male teacher, which was a little bit discouraging for me, to say that I would never be a ballet dancer. And anyone who tells me something that I can’t do, I’m like, ‘oh buddy, you messed up now.’

How is like exotic dancing different from the dance you’ve grown up with? A lot of it seems similar but it also seems very different.

Skyh: That’s a good question. I want to give hats off to my castmates who actually have come from the exotic dancer world, because it’s an art form within itself. I think, as society, we are so judgmental and we diminish other people’s paths, we diminish what they do because it’s taboo. But I literally sat back and watched a lot of the guys, and we have a female exotic dancer on our on cast as well, and it’s an art form because it’s a form of entertainment but it’s also a different audience. So, I literally sat back and watched. It’s not just about steps, and I come from the choreography world as a hip hop dancer and also, of course, the ballet world as a technician. So, everything I’ve learned, I had to throw away, and it became more about a feeling, and it became more about giving the audience this fantasy and drawing them in and that’s a soul connection. So, everything that exotic dancers do is providing escapism for people that are watching this, and that is a very hard place to go into because you almost have to let go of all of your insecurities, to be a fantasy for someone else. So I literally sat back and I watched those guys and asked questions. There’s a scene where my classmate, Michael Bolwaire, he plays doc, and he’s guiding me like a teacher on how to touch the character DJ Dime, played by Candace Maxwell. And that was a real moment for me. That was an absolutely real moment, because I was kind of like, ‘okay, yeah, I know how to dance, but this is different.’ It’s an amazing art form.

Was it difficult for you to transition into that?

Skyh: No, it wasn’t difficult, aesthetically, to transform into that, but I think it’s exposure. You have to let go and feel exposed. So, not so much difficult, but throw out everything in your mind, let go, and that was the motto I kept telling myself, just let go. Just let go. 

For viewers that are just starting the series, without giving too much away, what can they expect?

Skyh: Honestly, it’s really cliche, but expect the unexpected. I would say that, in the beginning, I was very nervous because I really wondered how people would perceive us. I mean, we have other shows out there that focus on exotic dancing like ‘P-Valley’ and honestly, we were getting a lot of flack, our show was getting a lot of flack, like this just a “male ‘P-Valley’” and also the societal thought process around strippers and exotic dancing, “this is just a stripper show.” So, expect the unexpected. I always say it’s more of a crime drama, than it is an exotic melodrama. And what it taught me, I would say, the lives that people who you don’t really know anything about are so intriguing. It really goes behind the scenes of how people live these lives and why they chose the path that they chose. And what I do love about it is the club. I feel like the club, Eden, is our silent character, because we all want to belong. We all want to feel like we belong to something and what the club did, I realized, the club was this safe haven for social misfits and it brought them all together, without judgment, and allowed them to flourish and have an unspoken understanding of each other’s lives. So, expect the unexpected.

You also have another show coming out on AMC called “Lace.” Can you tell us anything about that yet?

Skyh: Yes, I’m very excited about that too! I can tell you I play a Harvard attorney that speaks five different languages. So, I did have to learn Mandarin and I had to learn Russian and I had to learn a little bit of French, and I know Spanish. But what I love about that show is, as a black man, they allowed me to keep my tattoos. That meant a lot to me because of what it shows young kids, young kids of color and young kids across the nation- your appearance doesn’t define you. You can be anything that you want to be. So, I want to thank the creators because that was a creative decision, ‘okay let him keep his tattoos. He can still be in a suit and have tattoos and still do his job effectively.’ So I’m very, very excited and the character is totally different from Amp. This is a more bondage type, very self assured guy, but also he has an Achilles heel, which you’ll see in the show.

Do you have a premiere date for that yet?

Skyh: November 4. It’s right around the corner. I’m excited to see it because I only know what I shot, but I’m excited.

I also hear that you want to do some behind the camera work as well. Do you have any projects lined up with that?

Skyh: Actually, I’m optioning scripts right now and that’s a new hat to wear because producing is its own skill and craft in itself and anything that I do, I want to be great at it. And I want to tell certain stories. I love sci-fi mysteries, I love sci-fi thrillers, I’m a big sci-fi guy. I love worlds that are not ordinarily seen or something where you can’t just look outside of your window and go, ‘oh I see that every day.’ I love to push my imagination. I had like four imaginary friends when I was a kid, I was an only child. But I want to tell period stories, I want to go back and research people we don’t know. I want to tell the stories of a black Caesar or the first Samurai that was born in France, my mind goes there. So there are a lot of stories that I want to tell. 

Credit: Leigh Keily
When you’re not acting and dancing, you’re a big advocate for the homeless and the impoverished. How did you become passionate about helping these people?

Skyh: I was homeless three times, just being a struggling artist… And I said once I got out of this position, I will never judge anybody again, and I live in Los Angeles. And I’ll be honest, it’s hard. It’s very hard for just anyone that’s trying to get through the day. You never know what somebody’s problems are, however, see if you see it and it doesn’t hit you, I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to try to get $1 together to just eat a double cheeseburger from McDonald’s or call and ask your mom for $5 so you can eat a Little Caesars Pizza all week but not tell her you’re homeless, because she would make you come home. My heart goes out, always. And I feel that even though we have everything that we have going on in the world, we have some space to stop and think about your fellow human being sitting next to you, and how to also make their life just a little bit better, or put a smile on their face… I’m very spiritual, so I feel that God allows you to go through a lot of things in order to build character for you, but also for the help of others. You never know what someone’s going through and I’m living testimony that it happens. It’s hard, but it can happen, it will happen.

For those of us that are privileged to have homes and have finances, what can we do to help? 

Skyh: I think awareness. I mean, again, like I said, I live in Los Angeles and it’s so immensely the norm now, people are numb. I mean, I’m sitting here and I’m talking to you right now and I’m looking out of this huge, beautiful window, and there’s at least three or four tents right on the overpass. It’s acknowledgement and allow yourself to see it and allow yourself to just take a moment in and be grateful for what you have because look at that person who doesn’t have it. And I think, again, the first step is awareness and I know everyone’s dealing with their own problems and they’re dealing with their own issues and everything like that, but just be aware. Be aware and I think that’s the first step to just starting a conversation.

Is there anything you would like to say more about “All the Queen’s Men,” “Lace,” or anything else that you’re working on?

Skyh: “All the Queen’s Men,” stream it, you won’t be sorry. The creator, Christian Keyes, is absolutely incredible. This was his baby and he actually wrote my character, he’s from this book called ‘Ladies Night’ and he wrote the character, Amp, for himself, and he picked me. Please go stream it and support it. I’m very excited with what we did. “Lace”-  I’m extremely excited as well. Watch it, support it. It’s a great crime drama, court drama. And there are other projects that I can’t talk about, but I’ll be excited to talk about that a little later on after filming.

“All the Queen’s Men” season 1 is currently available to stream on BET+.