B.J. Minor stars in their breakout role as a teenaged Mike Tyson in the newly released Hulu series, “Mike.” The eight-part streaming event dives deep into how Tyson’s childhood and early adult life molded him to become one of the greatest boxers of all time.
Minor spoke exclusively with REVOLT about the process of getting selected for the series and what being an openly non-binary and queer person playing one of the world’s greatest athletes means to them. During our conversation, Minor opened up about their father teaching them vital lessons, their respect for the show’s cast and more. “Mike” premiered on Hulu Aug. 25.
Let’s start with a quick introduction to your role in Hulu’s series “Mike.”
I play teenage Mike Tyson in this series, which is so lit. Never in my wildest dreams — I’ve been told I look like Mike ever since I was a kid, but to be an actor and to actually play him, it’s wild. It’s like blessings on blessings. I have so much gratitude for it.
What was the process of reading the script and auditioning like for you?
It’s truly a wild story. I was a self-submission, which is crazy. Usually, you get these opportunities through your agent or manager … but one day, I was just sitting on Actor’s Access, trying to find my next gig, and I saw “Teenage Mike Tyson” for Hulu and I was like, “I’ve been told I look like Mike Tyson.” And I’m like, “Should I shoot my shot?” I had so much hesitation. I was just like, “I don’t know.” I googled Mike as a teenager and I was like, “Yo, you already pay for the subscription, you might as well submit to see if you get the audition.”
Then I got the audition. I did one self-tape and the same week I had to do my self-tape, I got the director’s session with Craig (Gillespie) — the director of the first two episodes — and that was my first director’s session. You would think I’d have so much stress going into it because Craig’s resume is stacked. Dude did I, Tonya and Cruella. But he was so easy to work with. I had a blast. I had a really good feeling leaving the director’s session that maybe if the stars aligned, this was meant to be. You know? From a self-submission to a director’s session. You can’t mess up what God has planned for you. That was my process.
Some things are just meant to be. I can see the resemblance between you and Mike. But you finding that role through Actor’s Access — I’ve heard of the website, but I didn’t know people were really getting booked. Hulu is a big deal.
Right? Super big deal.
How did you react to finding out you booked the role?
I found out via email. It’s so wild. It was a Monday. I was on FaceTime with my friend Janelle Marie who is also an actress, and we were just talking about life, and then I got an email notification, and I opened it. It said, “Congratulations, you’re team Mike” and I’m just like — we both started screaming on the phone. I just remember in the middle of our phone conversation, I started saying, “Thank you to God, thank you to my ancestors, thank you to my guardian angels.” I’m not an emotional person, but there were tears. I got a little teary-eyed because I felt so protected, seen and blessed. So, yeah, I was on FaceTime and then I got the email. I was like, “My life is about to change.”
I love that so much for you. Is there anything you’ve learned about yourself during this process?
Absolutely. So, I think the most gratitude for this part, for me, comes down to I’m non-binary and queer and we don’t necessarily get that representation in Hollywood. Let alone opportunities to act outside of queer, trans, non-binary roles. Sometimes I feel like casting can be super limiting when it comes to people who look and present themselves like me. So being cast, I realized this is so much bigger than me. It put a much-needed pressure, but I also took it with so much honor and gratitude that I had an opportunity to prove that we are capable. If we are given the opportunity, we are capable of stepping into the shoes of one of the most legendary boxers on the planet and doing his life justice.
This is so inspiring. It’s obvious that Mike is extremely athletic. As far as preparing for the role, was that something you were already familiar and comfortable with?
I would say I’m naturally athletic. I did sports my entire life — football, basketball, wrestling, track and field — but I haven’t done sports probably since, like, my first year of college. After that, I just got super focused with academics. I graduated from the College of William & Mary in Virginia with a B.A. in political science and government. But I’ve still always had an athletic build. I think that helped with the casting. As for the boxing, believe it or not, I only had 10 days of boxing training to play Mike Tyson, which is kind of mind-boggling. Seeing the trailer and seeing how good the boxing turned out, I was so impressed with myself. I was like, “You did that.” I’m not mad at it.
But I also have a secret weapon. My dad was a boxer and he was someone I could call on, which was so cool. I’m the youngest of seven children and my dad trained my older siblings but when it came to me, he didn’t have a chance to train me because by the time I came around, he and my mom were both working two jobs to provide for the family. So, this is also a love letter for my whole family to get to see this full circle.
Now the tables are turned and you can help them.
What were you looking forward to the most as the project premiered on Hulu?
I was mostly excited to see the full transformation. I’m not going to lie to you, I watched the trailer so many times, just getting myself hype. I was excited to see the full transformation but also the incredible artistry from my castmates, from the crew, from Craig. I worked with so many incredible actors from Harvey Keitel, Russell Hornsby, to Trevante Rhodes, who I’m glad is getting his flowers because he’s been killing it. To get to see myself share the screen with people I’ve become friends with and who’ve mentored me through the process. Like Olunike Adeliyi, the actress who plays my mom in the series, I was excited to see our chemistry and work on screen. I was just excited to see the labor of love all come together, the culmination and also to see how people react to the series.
I think a lot of people are going to like it because you finally get to see how the kid Mike Tyson from Brownsville [in Brooklyn, N.Y.] becomes a legend. A lot of people don’t know his history. They only know his boxing career, but they don’t know the stuff he had to overcome to get there — from being poor and Black in America to being bullied. So, I’m super excited for people to get his life story.
I’ve really enjoyed speaking with you. How can we keep up with you?
I had a blast by the way. That was lit. My Instagram is @B.J.Minor.
Are you on Twitter?
I don’t have a Twitter, which is probably for the best because I feel like Twitter be getting people in trouble.