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Former Norcross resident Tamyra Gray (’Idol,’ season one) joins local play ‘Our Time Has Come’

Tamyra Gray returns to Atlanta to play the daughter of the future president in "Our Time Has Come." Here, she is rehearsing her narration role at a Marietta theater Feb. 16, 2012. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Tamyra Gray returns to Atlanta to play the daughter of the future president in "Our Time Has Come." Here, she is rehearsing her narration role at a Marietta theater Feb. 16, 2012. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

For fans of vintage “American Idol,” the name Tamyra Gray resonates.

In 2002, the former Norcross and Stone Mountain resident was the first “surprise” ouster on the burgeoning hit show, leaving in fourth place, behind Nikki McKibbin, Justin Guarini and winner Kelly Clarkson.

Many experts and fans at the time expected she would be competing with Kelly for the win – including a very sour Simon Cowell, who was a fan from day one.

Ten years later, the only genuine star from that first group of ten was Clarkson, who is going headline a Fox Theatre concert in Atlanta Thursday.

After stints on TV, film and Broadway, Gray’s star faded. In 2006, she married music producer and songwriter Sam Watters (Color Me Badd) and had a daughter Sienna Marie in 2010. While being a mother has been great, she said she is ready to get back into the entertainment world.

I caught up with Gray last week in Marietta preparing for a role in a play at 14th Street Playhouse called “Our Time Has Come.” It debuted last Saturday and runs through March 4. [You can buy tickets here.]

Playwright Sylvester Stephens wrote a play in 2001 envisioning America’s first black president in 2008, long before Barack Obama pursued such a goal. Gray plays the president’s daughter and narrator, covering 1949 to 2009, for 10 of the 18 performances. The play is expected to tour several cities in the Southeast in April.

“It’s a fictional story with actual facts,” Gray noted. “We’ll talk about Martin Luther King Jr. Emmett Till. Civil rights leaders who were slain. But the president is fictional. Nobody in 2001 thought it would happen.”

And how about this for coming full circle? When Stephens was putting the play together in 2002, Gray tried out for the role by doing a monologue where she played a teen who killed her baby. She decided to audition for “American Idol” instead. The writer never forgot her and invited her back.

The play, Gray said, is a “call to action. Remember the struggles of history to able to voice your opinion in this upcoming election.” As a Democrat, she plans to campaign for Pres. Obama later this year and become more politically active in general.

She flew in from her home in Los Angeles earlier this month to spend her first extended time in Atlanta in years. (Her mom, an accountant, still lives here.) She hasn’t been able to check out how Atlanta has changedf all that much because she’s been busy learning 16 monologues, two acting scenes and three songs. “I’m putting in 12-hour days,” she said. “In order to tell a story about history, you have to know history.”

When I told her when Clarkson was performing, Gray said that was a night off for her and she plans to be there. (The last time she and Kelly had spoken was right before she had Sienna.) It’s been even longer since she spoke with Justin, who will be in Atlanta next month for “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County,” created by John Mellencamp and Stephen King at the Alliance Theatre.

I asked Gray if could have been Beyonce, going the path of an R&B or pop star. “I don’t think I could have,” she said. “I think everybody aspires to have that type of status…. I think it’s because there’s so much I want to do. I couldn’t be that laser focused.”

Variety works for her, she said. Over the years, she’s acted in TV (”Half & Half,” “What I Like About You,” “Boston Public”), Broadway (”Bombay Dreams,” “Rent”) and film (”The Gospel,” “Rachel Getting Married”). She released one record, “The Dreamer,” which sold a relatively modest 130,000 copies in 2004.

Here she is from a decade ago:

tamyra-gray

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By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk

122 comments Add your comment

Mercedes S.

February 21st, 2012
7:14 am

Good Morning!
Good to hear our Vintage Idols are still making a living onstage.

Mercedes S.

February 21st, 2012
7:18 am

Alex W – happy now?

Deirdre

February 21st, 2012
7:24 am

Tamyra was always a favorite. Such a lovely voice.

Rodney, I’m assuming from the play’s description that this is not a musical.

Deirdre

February 21st, 2012
7:24 am

Also, while I’m at it, this thread is not showing up in the Idol Archive.

Sam-A

February 21st, 2012
8:09 am

I thought Tamyra had a nice voice, not in Kelly’s league, but nice. The thing I most remember about her is the cool clothes she wore – really “tasteful rock star” style. When put up against Ryan Starr, Nikki and several others, she had a nice image. She and Kelly were far and away the coolest girls (though Simon might argue that Christina Christensen, his “big crush” should be listed too).

I really thought she’d end up #2. But for me, she made a couple of bad song choices, got too blusey/jazzy for Idol, even back then, and that turned me away a bit.

Deirdre

February 21st, 2012
8:13 am

I still cannot figure out how Nikki McKibbon came in 3rd that season.

Mercedes S.

February 21st, 2012
8:48 am

Nikki McKibbon – third! really! Plenty of personality but not much of a voice.

Deirdre

February 21st, 2012
8:49 am

Almost any other season, Tamyra could have won:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wN4wGxPvpw

Deirdre

February 21st, 2012
8:53 am

Adam Lambert has been invited to sing with Queen again at a concert near London in July.

Pitchy

February 21st, 2012
9:04 am

Whenever I hear or see Tamara’s name I immediately think of the twinkle in Simon’s eye every time she was on stage. He was so smitten with her it pained him to be a judge and not a suitor (lol).

How come there isn’t ever a thread for The Voice??

Rickster

February 21st, 2012
9:22 am

Morning, everybody. Here’s some new about “the guy who finished second to Kris Allen (you know, Kris, the guy who actually won?)”

The Associated Press
6:51 a.m. Tuesday, February 21, 2012

LONDON — Former “American Idol” singer Adam Lambert is joining landmark rock band Queen for one concert this summer, at Sonisphere 2012.

Queen’s Brian May and Roger Taylor confirmed Tuesday that the American singer-songwriter will perform vocals for the band’s headline set on the second day of the Sonisphere 2012 rock festival. The concert takes place July 7 at Knebworth Park in Stevenage, north of London.

Lambert, 30, has sung with Queen before. In 2009 he performed “We Are the Champions” on the U.S. reality show that made his name and then last November he sang an eight-minute set at the MTV Europe Awards to celebrate Queen’s Global Icon Award.

Freddie Mercury’s final concert with Queen also took place at Knebworth, in August 1986.

Sam-A

February 21st, 2012
9:37 am

Pitchy: Just throw in anything you want about “Voice”. A number of us don’t watch, but glad to hear your take on the show any time. RoHo does usually mention various thing about the show.

Deirdre

February 21st, 2012
9:40 am

Thanks Rickster, you said it so much better than I did. ;-)

Deirdre

February 21st, 2012
9:43 am

Pitchy, it takes enough of my time to blog about Idol 2 nights a week. ;-)

I’m sure, if enough people show interest in The Voice, Rodney will write about it. I really did not enjoy last night’s version of the Voice at all. Found it boring and repetitive.

Rodney Ho

February 21st, 2012
9:47 am

If I had endless amts of time, I’d recap “The Voice,” too. But I don’t. I may do some later in the season but not quite yet.

Pitchy

February 21st, 2012
9:59 am

Well, I’m honored that you answered me, RHo. Thanks

I hope the statement by one of the singers saying he needed a stiff drink after his performance and Blake offering him a sip of his drink wasn’t actually alcohol like Blaked alluded to. I thought that inappropriate.

The show itself was ok, talented people, but I’m waiting for the competition between all of the judges’ pick to get started. That’s when good singing and an almost concert atmosphere will take place (for me).

Deirdre

February 21st, 2012
10:03 am

I will say that The Voice does a much better job with what is basically a competition between the judges than Xf does. The judges on The Voice are nicer so far and funnier and seem to play it as a friendly competition. XF struck me as mean-spirited and nasty.

I like that Idol focuses on the singers(and yes, there was a time when it didn’t) and not the judges.

Rickster

February 21st, 2012
10:21 am

Who cares about “The Voice?” For that matter.. who cares about “American Idol” and the X-Factor? The shows stink.. they’re useless waste of times that are on the decline. They’re toast… history… fini.

And anyone who wasted their time watching these shows needs to get a life!

Rickster

February 21st, 2012
10:22 am

Does that about cover it?

:-)

Harriett

February 21st, 2012
10:37 am

Morning!

I don’t mind chatting about The Voice, but my loyalty is, and always will be, with American Idol. After the blinid auditions, I don’t particularly care about The Voice. The battle rounds are kind of icky to me. Just me, I know.

Harriett

February 21st, 2012
10:37 am

or maybe blind auditions?

Rickster

February 21st, 2012
10:40 am

Maybe Idol should have the contestants audition behind that Idol backdrop so that the judges can’t let looks influence their decisions.

Rickster

February 21st, 2012
10:44 am

Too bad they didn’t do that a couple of seasons ago. That would have spared us from “Bikini Girl.”

Harriett

February 21st, 2012
10:50 am

Now, Rickster, you’d be making some folks here very unhappy.

Rickster

February 21st, 2012
11:00 am

True, Harriett. Very true. :-D

Rickster

February 21st, 2012
11:04 am

Speaking of “The Voice” here’s an interesting story about an Air Force soldier who went from viral video to the audition round.

http://www.foxnews.com/on-air/fox-friends/index.html?playlist_id=86912&intcmp=features#/v/1463672509001/air-force-rocker-stuns-the-voice/

Harriett

February 21st, 2012
11:09 am

I remember when that video made the rounds. And, she is just as good in person.

Mercedes S.

February 21st, 2012
11:14 am

I sampled Voice and X-Factor so now I don’t have to watch it anymore.

Mercedes S.

February 21st, 2012
11:16 am

It pains me to have to say this, but, devoted Adam fan that I am, I cannot remember any of his appearances on Idol before he became a top ten finalist.

Pitchy

February 21st, 2012
11:19 am

Is that our beloved Rickster, spewing just hate for the shows, or has an imposted invaded our sanctuary (lol)?

Rickster

February 21st, 2012
11:25 am

We know it’s coming at some point, Pitchy. I just wanted to get it out of the way early. :-)

Pitchy

February 21st, 2012
11:27 am

I know, I know….I caught on after I noticed your smiley faces.

Sam-A

February 21st, 2012
11:40 am

Mercedes: I remember him in the first round of auditions before the judges – remember him being very good, and not nearly so weirdly turned out as he was on the actual performing shows.

Sam-A

February 21st, 2012
11:45 am

Mercedes: here you go with an audition. He was very cute – much more so than when he put all the makeup, hair goo, and silly accoutrement for the shows.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5-pXsAQLq4

Sam-A

February 21st, 2012
11:45 am

Mercedes: look how cute, before all the makeup, hair goo, and accoutrements added for the shows:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5-pXsAQLq4

Sam-A

February 21st, 2012
11:49 am

sorry – didn’t go thru first time, so re sent. Look on youtube for Adam Lambert Idol audition – there are several different ones for the different stages of audition.

Mercedes S.

February 21st, 2012
12:06 pm

THANK YOU, Sam-A! Somehow I had missed that audition… Simon looked stunned!
Agree with commenters on clip – Adam looked way cuter before all the make up.

G

February 21st, 2012
12:14 pm

I’m not all that impressed with the talent on The Voice, so far this season. The talent is just okay at best, but seems to be missing something. This is the exact opporsite in comparison to Idol. AI talent at this point, is overall head and shoulders above The Voice. My opinion may/may not change at the final 24.

The Voice is somewhat starting off as a dissappointment. Talent was obviously much better last season, and was head and shoulders better than AI. This year……….different story so far.

Pitchy

February 21st, 2012
12:19 pm

@G ~ did you see last week’s show of The Voice? Talent was much better last year…are you kidding me. You need to blog with me at night!!!!

Pitchy

February 21st, 2012
12:20 pm

BTW, I do agree with your comment on AI being better than The Voice with the talent this year. This is AI’s BEST year in terms of really, really good singers.

BTW, did you guys get the cheat sheet I posted last week on smiley faces and other things????

Miss Javon

February 21st, 2012
1:01 pm

I thought this was supposed to be about Ms. Gray and here you all are talking about duh.

Pitchy

February 21st, 2012
1:19 pm

@Rickster – I’ll challenge your Air Force solider story on The Voice to this story on X Factor (lol). Not a dry eye in the house.

http://www.youtube.com/embed/W86jlvrG54o?rel=0

Pitchy

February 21st, 2012
1:20 pm

@Miss Javon – This blog is about Radio and TV. We talk about many different things.

kelly&carriefan

February 21st, 2012
1:26 pm

Aw, Tamyra, the memories. I’m glad that she’s still out there making a career of what she loves. I always thought that it’d be here vs Kelly at the end. Nikki was able to scrape by being in the bottom 3/2 for a few weeks.

I watched The Voice last night. I’m still enjoying the auditions and the contestants are really talented, but I just can’t seem to muster up to much sympathy for folks like Tony who’s been on Broadway, Vegas and did a run with Queen. I mean, really, does he need a show like The Voice? I don’t think so.

JTesla

February 21st, 2012
1:29 pm

Miss Javon, please stick to the topic of Tamyra Gray and not focus on us. We are not the topic.

Pitchy

February 21st, 2012
1:30 pm

And, so you don’t become further perturbed with us, Miss Javon, we also tell jokes (esp. JTesla and Rickster)…you may want to vacate the premises.

Pitchy

February 21st, 2012
1:31 pm

OMG, JTesla, wish I had thought of that…GOOD ONE!!!!!

Pitchy

February 21st, 2012
1:31 pm

See, there’s JTesla quick wit….

Rickster

February 21st, 2012
1:46 pm

From the picture at the top… it seems Tamyra has a bad case of the blues.