Since his childhood in Joliet, Illinois, Jermaine Sellers has dreamed of hitting it big as an actor and singer. Now, at 35 years old, the “American Idol” Season 9 alum and stage actor gets his next big break — this time, on Bravo.
“Your Husband Is Cheating On Us” premieres this Sunday and, like many of the network’s popular series’, focuses on drama in the workplace. Rather than restaurant back-alleys or deckhand cabins, though, this new show brings urban theater — an industry that began as an outlet for African-American performers who weren’t regularly cast — to the forefront.
Here’s the concept: While writer/producer JD Lawrence prepares for the upcoming premiere of the play, “Your Husband Is Cheating On Us,” the production’s cast — including rapper Ginuwine and Sellers, who is his understudy — is living under the same roof for the eight weeks leading up to opening night. Don’t underestimate an understudy, though. “That one moment you give me, I’m going to take the stage,” Sellers laughs. “I’m trying to get your roll.”
Filled with career rifts, ego struggles and the inevitable issues that arise when a group of coworkers cohabitate, “Cheating” checks all the boxes for a classic Bravo dramedy series.
Sellers opened up to Splash about his time on the show, what’s up next for him and why he’ll never forget his Illinois roots.
SPLASH: What do you hope viewers at home learn about the urban theater industry?
JERMAINE SELLERS: We’re just like Broadway – with a twist. Urban theater gives you more of an opportunity. There are a lot of unknown [actors] looking for that next opportunity to be seen or share their gifts, and urban theater makes [that opportunity] available to them. I want people to take away the fact that there’s always someone who has an audition and can’t get out there.
S: What advice would you give your younger self — especially at times when you wanted to give up on becoming a performer?
JS: Keep pushing, keep pushing. A lot of people are going to close doors on you, but the more doors that close in front of you should make you want to work even harder toward your goal. I was on “American Idol,” “Sunday’s Best” and I was a lead correspondent for “106 & Gospel.” When those shows ended, I almost wanted to give up. But then I thought to myself, “God didn’t give me this gift to just leave it. I have to keep pushing.”
S: JD Lawrence is a well-respected producer in urban theater. What is it like working with him?
JS: My very first production with JD was called “I’ll Always Love My Mama.” I was 22 years old and I got the chance to sing with people I had looked up to my entire life. JD’s mind is completely different; [he] gives you that opportunity to go out there and show your talent.
S: How has your upbringing impacted your career?
JS: Being out of Joliet alone, [many students] from my high school class [have been affected by] gun violence and other things. You don’t have to [just] dream, you can actually make those dreams come true. Some people get so stuck and they get comfortable and they don’t know what it is to branch out. I had my mom and dad pushing me the whole time, saying, “You’re going to be somebody, Jermaine. You have a gift.”
A lot of people are from Joliet who never actually claim it: Lionel Richie, Da Brat. They don’t claim it, because it’s a small town and it’s best known for [having the] prison. I’m going to represent my city until the day I die.
S: What’s next for you?
JS: Ultimately, I’m trying to be on “Star” or “Empire.” I’m trying to be a movement.
“Your Husband Is Cheating On Us” premieres Sunday, April 1, at 8 p.m. on Bravo.
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