Serayah McNeil may play talented popstar Tiana on Fox’s hit series Empire, but back in her heyday she was collecting ankles, draining jumpers and dishing dimes as the star point guard at Taft High School (Woodland Hills, Calif.).
“I was really good,” McNeil said. “I liked to pass and get assists, and I’m very much a team player.”
We caught up with McNeil to chop-it-up about everything from her Rajon Rondo-like skills to her coming music to what fans can expect when Empire returns on March 22.
Jason Jordan: I always like to gauge the sports backgrounds and experiences of all of my guests on the Celeb Chop-Up; I hear that you were a superstar basketball player?
Serayah McNeil: (Laughs) Wow, yeah I played in high school for Taft, junior varsity and varsity. I was good!
JJ: We both know “good” is relative; talk to me, how good is good?
SM: (Laughs) Very true. No, I was actually really good. I started playing when I was about 7 and I always got better. I was the team captain and I was the point guard because I’m actually really short. People think I’m tall, but I’m actually only 5-3.
JJ: Which player would your style put me in the mindset of?
SM: Definitely a Rajon Rondo type. I liked to pass and get assists and I’m very much a team player.
JJ: In hoops everyone has a shining moment at some point; tell me about yours?
SM: I remember this one game when my dad walked in the gym I was literally making every shot from the three-point line and then I made a halfcourt shot. I didn’t ’even know I made it. I just threw it up and turned around trying to beat the clock and my teammates were screaming and telling me I made it. That was a crazy game!
JJ: Sounds like you were in the zone that day. Do you think that if you put all of your focus into hoops you could’ve played at the next level?
SM: Oh absolutely, I could’ve played in college.
JJ: Gotcha. Let’s take it random; which fast food restaurant has the best burgers?
SM: I’d say In-N-Out!
JJ: Agreed. In the epic game of Paper, Rock, Scissors which object do you find that you get the most wins with?
SM: (Laughs) I get the most wins with paper!
JJ: When you see a yellow traffic light what’s the first thing that pops into your head?
SM: How long has it been yellow? Because I’m probably gonna try and make it.
JJ: What was your worst pre-fame job?
SM: I love H&M, but it just wasn’t for me!
JJ: What movie absolutely deserves another installment?
SM: Ooh, I’d love to see another part of Fences!
JJ: What’s the most overused slang word or phrase out today?
JJ: If you would 100 percent get away with it which crime would you commit?
SM: Oh wow! Probably speeding.
JJ: Just not gonna rob that bank huh?
SM: (Laughs) Naaaah! I like to get to where I need to go fast.
JJ: What competition based reality show would you absolutely win?
SM: Oh man, that’s a good one. I would probably say Wipe Out!
JJ: President Obama’s Secret Service code name was Renegade, President Trump’s is Mogul; if you were President what would you pick your code name to be?
SM: Oh shoot that’s a good question! Man… Hmm… It would be… Pursuit!
JJ: I like it, they’ll always know what to do if you get lost that way! OK, you tap a car in a parking lot and no one’s around, do you move to a different row or do you leave a note?
SM: (Laughs) I’ll leave a note…
JJ: What sitcom intro song do you know every word to?
SM: The Cleveland Show!
JJ: What was your worst childhood punishment?
SM: Whoopings man! That was the worst!
JJ: Unfortunately you’ve found yourself in the Witness Protection Program, what’s your new name going to be?
SM: (Laughs) My name would be Tyler. That’s pretty common and low profile.
JJ: What random fact can you reel off to me right now?
SM: Oh man, shoot, you’re putting me on the spot now! OK, here’s one: The reason Mariah Carey was so modest in the way she dressed when she first came out was because of her label. That’s why after those first two albums she became more of a sex symbol because she felt so covered up for so long.
JJ: Interesting. Talk or text?
JJ: Blindfolded can you tell the difference between Pepsi and Coke?
SM: Yep! Pepsi is a lot sweeter!
JJ: Who would you never want to meet in a dark alley?
SM: The Gross Sisters off of Proud Family!
JJ: If you could go back and get the truth about one past mystery which would you choose?
SM: Great question! Ooh, I would want to know the truth about 9/11. I’d want to know every detail.
JJ: Who’s going to win the highly-anticipated boxing match between Chris Brown and Soulja Boy?
SM: Chris Brown.
JJ: OK, we’ve got Empire returning on March 22, talk about everything we can expect this season plus your music and everything else you’ve got going on that fans can look forward to.
SM: OK thanks this was fun! Well, like you said, we’re back next month and the fans are going to love everything about the storyline. Every character is evolving and some characters are being vengeful as always! With my character, specifically, you’ll see a lot more of her growth and personal moments. With my music, I’m working hard on things and hoping that we’ll be able to get some music out for the fans really soon, possibly in March. I’ll also be performing more this summer so just staying busy and working hard.
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY