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SCENE & HEARD: ‘They Cloned Tyrone’ Star On The Conspiracy Of Cloned Rappers

J. Alphonse Nicholson is a rising star in the world of film and TV. Before becoming a sought-after actor, the native of Greensboro, NC, honed his musical chops on the drumline. Eventually, he took his show on the road and began drumming on the street in New York City while he auditioned for roles in pursuit of his acting dreams. 

His perseverance paid off when he landed a role in the Broadway production of the critically acclaimed  A Soldier’s Play. On the big screen, Nicholson has appeared in Just Mercy,Madam CJ Walker and White Men Can’t Jump.  His other notable credits include Luke Cage, Tales, The Blacklist, Chicago PD, and several others. 

Currently, he stars as Lil Murda in the Starz hit drama P-Valley and is co-starring in the highly-anticipated They Cloned Tyrone which is in theaters and released on July 21 on Netflix. 

HipHopDX spoke with Nicholson about being a part of the star-studded cast of They Cloned Tyrone, his views on clones in Hip Hop, and who his favorite rapper is.

As a child, Nicholson’s artistry was nurtured by his family, while growing up in the church. Early on, his upbringing exposed him to the arts, which ultimately became his life’s work.

“I grew up in the church. My grandfather had a church, and my cousins, uncles and aunties were singers and musicians who played the drums, bass, guitar, and everything else,”Nicholson tells HipHopDX. “Not so much my immediate family, but I  come from a family of musicians. Even my band teacher or people I was on the drumline with became my family. So definitely a family of musicians.”

In addition to his family, Nicholson shared that North Carolina was a melting pot of rap music in the 90s and 2000s that deeply influenced him. Situated between the Boom-Bap of New York and the burgeoning southern rap scene of Atlanta, the “Tar Heel State” was his conduit to experiencing the diversity of Hip Hop.

“North Carolina is one of those states where it’s not quite in the south or in the north either but it’s on the East Coast,” he said. “It’s kind of right in the middle so when I was in high school in the 90s and the early 2000s, we had a great mix of rap music. So of course, we were listening to Jadakissand the JAY-Z’s of the world, Too Short, E-40 and all the West Coast music made its way over to Greensboro. Back then,  Lil Wayne was my favorite rapper. Shout out to Curren$y. I listened to a lot of his music and he’s my favorite rapper now. And then, of course,J-Cole, who came out of North Carolina and has been doing his thing in the game.

After becoming an acclaimed drummer and being hit with the acting bug, Nicholson knew that to pursue his dream he had to relocate to New York. When he wasn’t drumming the streets, (He would not stop until he made at least $100.00 a day), he was traveling to auditions which led him to a breakout role on Broadway.

“I knew that was only a certain pinnacle I could reach in North Carolina. I did all the regional community theater that I could; shout out to Playmakers Repertory Company in North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which really gave me a strong foundation and I did a lot of other community theaters in that area,” he recalls. “But I knew if I wanted to further my career, I would have to go to a place that allowed me to do that. So New York was closest to me at the time, and it had exactly what I wanted. 

It was that grit, the will, and I could hustle with my street drumming. Even though I had started street drumming in North Carolina, it was something I was able to take to New York and it really worked for me. I was trying to work my way up to Broadway and I was successful at doing that. I acted on many stages and many roles including A Soldier’s Play which earned a Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play.”

For his latest project, he’s co-starring alongside John Boyega, Teyonah Parris, and Jamie Foxx inThey Cloned Tyrone. Directed by Juel Taylor in his directorial debut, the film follows an unlikely uncovering of a government cloning conspiracy. Nicholson shared his excitement about working with the talented cast and director of the film.

“Juel Taylor comes from the same circumstances as I do. Being an African American brother from Alabama who made his way to Los Angeles and so I really respect his journey. I also respect how talented he was as a craftsman when it came to directing and writing as well.  You couldn’t tell this was his first time directing,” Nicholson says. “The script was amazing and it was very well put together. You could already picture the cast knowing that Jamie Foxx, John Boyega, and Teyonah Parris were involved.”

“After auditioning for the role, I didn’t hear back for a long time. It finally came back to me a couple of months later, when the pandemic was ramping up and so I was wondering how we were going to shoot it. We ended up being in a bubble for three months and we got it done. I got to work with David Alan Grier again, who I worked with on A Soldier’s Play. Jamie and I had worked on Just Mercy so I was excited once I found out that  the role was mine for sure.”

Lately, there have been several conspiracy theories about rappers who have cloned themselves, specifically Gunna and Gucci Mane. While Nicholson doesn’t take any of the cloning accusations too seriously, he believes that they are good fodder for conversations and the film may make audiences ask even more questions about the possibility of clones.

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“Man you know conspiracy theories always want to be there and I think it’s one of those things that when you see this movie it will definitely make your Spidey senses go off when it comes to clones and wondering if you even have a clone out there,” he laughed. “I think conspiracy theories [are] out there for everybody whether you believe in it or not. They’re out there and so you know I don’t get too much into it but it’s entertaining nonetheless.”

“With They Cloned Tyrone, just seeing you this talented Black cast excel in a genre that we normally don’t see ourselves in such as sci-fi/mystery, with a little bit of drama in it, is amazing. I want the audiences to take with them the power of seeing ourselves in these really cool platforms and stories that take you outside of the things we see in TV and film,” he said “I also want people to see my growth and range as an actor.”

Of all of his work thus far in his career, They Cloned Tyrone holds special significance to Nicholson. In the film, he displayed his versatility and depth as an actor. He believes that this is his shining moment.

They Cloned Tyrone I think is the project that I’m most proud of you so far in my film career. Obviously, people know that  P-valley has a soft place in my heart. You get to see me a lot more than you’ve ever seen me in any other films and to work alongside John Boyega, Tiana and Jamie was a true blessing. I think we have a classic for sure. I can’t wait for people to check it out in theaters and on Netflix on July 21st. I hope people will be able to check it out and just have a great experience with it.”

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