Interview by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for
February 17, 2022

In the Peacock original series Take Note, young amateur singer Calvin Richards (Braelyn Rankins) is encouraged to take his talents to a televised reality competition, also entitled Take Note. With the support of his parents (Aadin Church and Nadine Whiteman Roden), little brother (Sebastian Spencer), and newfound friends, Calvin musters the confidence to pursue his dreams of making it to Hollywood and competing for a career in show business. Along the way, he finds inspiration from his lifelong idol, artist Ali Parkson (Mariah Campos).

As a show-within-a-show, Take Note largely follows the framework of a traditional family sitcom, while its fictional competition element offers the opportunity for an assortment of musical numbers including both original songs and classic covers spanning the decades.

A native of Cleveland who currently calls Atlanta home, star Braelyn Rankins sees parallels between his own journey and that of his character Calvin. In this exclusive interview, Braelyn talks about relating to Calvin, combining music and acting, and living on the road to film the show in Canada.

All ten episodes of Take Note's first season are streaming now, exclusively on Peacock. How would you compare yourself to your character?

BRAELYN: I think we're really similar--that was one of the things that made me really want to play Calvin--as far as the singing goes, and just being in the industry, and having supportive families. So it was pretty easy to connect.

What are your earliest memories of wanting to perform?

I've been singing since I was 5. And I've wanted to act, also, since I was 5. So it's been a major part of my life, for sure...I grew up singing in church, so I would just sing more so church songs, or I would look at the choir performing. And I had a few opportunities to perform with the choir, which was really cool. Those are kind of my earlier, first performances.

Were there particular singers whose work you admired growing up?

One singer, whose work I definitely admire currently, is Ariana Grande. And that's how I kind of connected...If you look at Ali Parkson, I just thought of her as Ariana Grande since she's been my favorite artist/performer for a very long time.

Do you have any say in determining the songs that are performed on Take Note? Which were the most challenging?

They more so just bring songs to me. I didn't really play a part in deciding what music to sing. But I enjoyed it...I don't want to spoil anything, but definitely some of the more emotional songs [were challenging]. Just playing that in your voice. Because before Take Note, I hadn't really tapped into singing in a while, so just trying to get back in that element was more difficult.

The show includes songs from all different eras. Were some of the older selections all new to you?

Well, with "O-o-h Child," I was definitely familiar with that. Some of the other songs I hadn't heard of, so those were definitely new. But there were a couple in there that I already knew.

What type of music do you associate with the '90s, the decade before you were born?

I associate R&B with [the] '90s, kind of like hip hop...I think of that as '80s/'90s music. Yeah, R&B for sure.

You have a great family dynamic with your co-stars, in the tradition of classic sitcoms. Growing up, did you have any shows that influenced your idea of comedy?

I loved Disney Channel! That's kind of how I got started in the industry in the first place--I really wanted to be on Disney Channel. So Disney Channel, for sure. All of the shows...I like That's So Raven, I remember Jesse, and A.N.T. Farm. And A.N.T. Farm and Take Note are really similar, so that was another cool thing.

Take Note also shares some similarities, obviously, with competitive reality shows. Are there any that you watch regularly?

Not as of recently, but when I was preparing for Take Note, I definitely watched a lot of those. I liked America's Got Talent, and I liked The Voice. And I did like The Masked Singer, I think I saw the first season of that...I thought that was a really cool concept.

You had a guest role on DC's Doom Patrol as a young version of Cyborg. How was your experience of playing a character who has been interpreted by so many other actors in so many different ways?

Doom Patrol was amazing! I'm a huge comic book fan. I love Marvel and DC. It was really cool, for sure. I've loved Teen Titans for as long as I can remember. And I remember getting on set...I had the opportunity to meet Joivan [Wade], who plays the older version of Cyborg. And I kind of just tried to bring my own thing to it. I didn't really pay attention to how people in the past have played Cyborg. It was definitely a really cool experience.

It seems like the opposite of a character like Calvin, who you are originating and building from the ground up. In that type of scenario, do you find yourself imbuing him with traits and experiences from your own life?

[ponders] That's a good question...I don't know, to be honest. I guess I just have to see how it kind of all plays out. I would imagine so. Me and Calvin are so similar in a lot of ways. So yeah, for sure, I think so.

By contrast, are there things from Calvin that have rubbed off on you?

Maybe...I would say confidence, in a way. When I was on set, playing Calvin definitely helped me with my confidence, just kind of the way he gets when he's performing.

How is the atmosphere on set? It seems like you are all having fun behind the scenes as well...

Yeah, I think all of the cast were definitely really great. We had great chemistry, we would hang out sometimes off-set. It was a really cool set to be a part of...It was different--this was my first musical.

How was your experience of relocating to Canada to shoot season one?

I had been to Toronto a couple months prior to film [8-Bit Christmas]. Canada is really cool. This was my first time going to Niagara Falls, so I kind of got to tour everything...I would say it was pretty cool, it was nice just kind of finding our way in Canada...And we had a nice view of the falls.

What project do you have coming up next?

There is something else I have in the works. I can't say anything right now, but it's really big, and I'm really excited to share it with everyone!

Going forward, would you want to continue to combine music and acting, or would you like to keep the two separate?

I think a little bit of both. I'd definitely like to do another musical if it comes my way. But I'd also like to just do different genres of roles--maybe more serious roles, maybe comic roles. I'd be open to really anything!

Well, congratulations on wrapping up a season of Take Note, and thanks for speaking with us today...Have a good one!

Thank you, you too!

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