Last night’s BET Awards did not lack for moments that drove social media cray. But one of the best by far was when the camera cut to black-ish star Marsai Martin’s awesome reaction to Bryson Tiller’s performance of “Don’t.” Those who watch black-ish are already familiar with Martin’s scene-stealing ways—as the diabolical daughter Diane, her dry zingers often make her the MVP of any given episode. Now we know what she’s like outside of the world of her fictional character. Over email, Martin told COMPLEX, “Sometimes the camera is directly in your face… So you can’t help but know it’s on you, but during Bryson Tiller’s performance it was dark and I was just jammin’.”
Martin got hip to Tiller’s music by listening to satellite radio on her daily commute to work. “I am a fan but like all the other music I listen to, my mom buys the edited versions so I get the ‘watered down, more appropriate versions’ of songs,” she wrote. “I mostly like listening to the beats and hooks. I like to sing too and singing along to his songs is fun.”
“Let Em Know” is her favorite Tiller song. Beyond that, what she’s listening to now it goes “Beyoncé, Beyoncé, Beyoncé” (Marsai on Bey’s surprise opening performance “When I heard the first beat of Freedom I thought I was gonna pass out!”) She’s also into Rihanna, and Kanye West, and also loves Jodeci, Marvin Gaye and Prince. That’s right, she wasn’t just jamming to the contemporary performances. She was as tuned into the tributes as the rest of us. “My Mom is a CRAZY die-hard Prince fan, and he passed away on her birthday this year. So it hit her hard… I know sooo many Prince songs because of her, but ‘Starfish and Coffee’ is my favorite…then ‘Breakfast Can Wait.’ Each tribute got better and better. So by the time Sheila E performed, the crowd was soooo hype!”
A late night out with her TV family was fun and all, but with the black-ish hiatus coming up on three months now, Marsai is ready to get back to work. “We spent Easter with the first family at the White House, I shot a movie and have two more to shoot, I am a voice on four animated shows right now. I joined Marley Dias and the Department of Education in Washington, D.C. to promote literacy for young girls like myself. I’ve spent a lot of time swimming and going to Disneyland—it’s been a great summer so far! But I’m ready to start Season 3.” Same.