The Girls of ‘Star’ Are Ready to Shake Up Primetime TV

The Girls of ‘Star’ Are Ready to Shake Up Primetime TV

For its November issue, V honors the leaders shaping popular culture and carrying it into the future. Next up is Jude Demorest, Ryan Destiny, and Brittany O'Grady, the cast of Lee Daniels's next television series, 'Star.'

For its November issue, V honors the leaders shaping popular culture and carrying it into the future. Next up is Jude Demorest, Ryan Destiny, and Brittany O'Grady, the cast of Lee Daniels's next television series, 'Star.'

Photography: Inez & Vinoodh

Styling: Jay Massacret

Text: Priya Rao

This story appears in V104. Click here to pre-order the issue before it arrives on stands November 10.

Academy Award-nominated director Lee Daniels certainly has a way of spotting talent. Take Gabourey Sidibe, who emerged from relative obscurity to star in the leading role of the critically acclaimed film Precious. Or, take Taraji P. Henson, who transitioned from secondary roles to the devilish favorite Cookie Lyon in Empire. Now, it’s up-and-comers Jude Demorest, Ryan Destiny, and Brittany O'Grady who are getting the full Lee Daniels treatment in the forthcoming television series Star, which chronicles the inevitable trials and tribulations of an all-girl, Atlanta-based group on the road to stardom—hence, the show’s apropos title. And let’s not forget that Queen Latifah plays a prominent role in the series as well.

“It shows the music world is ruthless,” says 24-year-old Demorest, who hails from Detroit and plays the title character of Star. “My experience in L.A. is it's very cutthroat, it's more about not making it than making it. [The show] constantly asks the question, ‘What would you do for this?’” The 21-year-old Destiny, who actually was one-third of the urban/pop trio Love Dollhouse and who was slated to appear on Empire before her turn on Star, agrees, “There's a lot of drama, but there's always sisterhood.”

To land the roles, Daniels made the actresses do their necessary due diligence. “Nobody had ever given me homework for a callback before,” says Demorest, whose music bona fides include a co-writing credit for the Fifth Harmony track "Work from Home." “I went home and was educated on Valley of the Dolls, a documentary called Girlhood, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, and Email Trouble, which was just traumatizing. It was so good, but it was things I'd never, never heard of.”

RYAN WEARS BRA ACNE STUDIOS EARRINGS TIFFANY & CO. BRITTANY WEARS EARRINGS VHERNIER JUDE WEARS CHOKER CUSTOM EARRINGS TIFFANY & CO. ON EYES LANCÔME AUDA[CITY] IN LONDON EYESHADOW PALETTE

Still, Daniels wanted to temper the melodrama on the show with a certain level of authenticity and used real female power groups, like the Supremes and Destiny’s Child, as inspiration. “One of the things that Lee is famous for doing while you are on set is that he loves to yell, ‘Cut it in half,’” says Demorest. “It means you're being very over the top and he wants you to bring it down to reality.”

Speaking of reality, Daniel’s emphasis upon racial diversity shouldn’t be lost on the audience. “I didn't grow up with too many mixed-race actresses to look up to,” says O'Grady, who is half-white and half-black and plays the biracial Simone. This is the first time I'm actually playing my own race on television; I usually play Latina women.” “There is just a difference between how men and women are treated in the industry, and color and race,” adds Demorest. “There’s favoritism towards certain people, and the show is very real in that way.”

Demorest, Destiny, and O'Grady are about to be unleashed in a major way come January, much like the parakeet Daniels uses on set, (“Brilliant directors always use birds in their projects, like Alfred Hitchcock,” says O'Grady. “I hope it gets paid well. That poor bird squacks and squacks.”) But more than just achieving a fame of their own, these three actresses are hoping to bring awareness to the world of celebrity. “I hope that when people watch Star they feel like they're seeing some of the best and worst parts of themselves,” says Demorest. “Sometimes the way girls are portrayed on television correlates to however people think that girls who look like that act or are defined. This shatters that.”

Credits: MAKEUP JEANINE LOBELL (TIM HOWARD MANAGEMENT)  HAIR CHRISTIAAN  MANICURE DEBORAH LIPPMANN (THE MAGNET AGENCY)  EXECUTIVE PRODUCER STEPHANIE BARGAS (VLM PRODUCTIONS)  PRODUCTION COORDINATOR EVA HARTE (VLM PRODUCTIONS)  STUDIO PRODUCER TUCKER BIRBILIS (VLM PRODUCTIONS)  STUDIO MANAGER MARC KROOP (VLM STUDIO)  DIGITAL TECHNICIAN BRIAN ANDERSON (VLM STUDIO)  LIGHTING DIRECTOR JODOKUS DRIESSEN (VLM STUDIO)  PHOTO ASSISTANT JOE HUME  STYLIST ASSISTANTS OLIVIA KOZLOWSKI, SEAN NGUYEN, SOPHIA TORRES-ULRICH, TALLIA BELLA PEPE  MAKEUP ASSISTANT JESSICA ROSS  HAIR ASSISTANT TAKU SUGAWARA  MANICURE ASSISTANTS STEPHANIE ARIA AND RIWAKO KOBAYASHI  RETOUCHING STEREOHORSE  LOCATION PIER 59 STUDIOS  CATERING DISHFUL

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