By Nadine Matthews, Special to the AFRO

Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman (“Unreal”) made the painful decision to leave acting a few years ago. “I was taking jobs for the wrong reasons and wasn’t really happy playing the characters I was playing,” he tells the AFRO. “Even if they were queer characters some of them were just not very thoughtfully written content created by straight, White men and just very stereotypical portrayals of queer men.”

He had just finished his umpteenth “pay your dues” gig and says, “I left that project with a very heavy heart. I had to take some time off to really re-evaluate why I was doing what I was doing. I told my team that if this was the quality of content that was coming my way, then I have no interest in doing it. And I really primarily want to play queer characters and those characters weren’t coming my way.” So Bowyer-Chapman flew to South African and went back to modeling, which he had been doing successfully since he was a teen. Then, his representatives approached him with a script that they frankly weren’t confident he would like. It was for a show called Unreal.

Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman is one of the stars of Lifetime’s ‘Unreal.’ (Courtesy photo)

Biracial with a White mother and Black father, Bowyer-Chapman was born in Edmonton Alberta Canada and raised during his early years in what he describes as, “A little farm town called Rimbey.” in Alberta. He moved as a teen to Vancouver British Columbia.  He has, he says, “Three adopted siblings and fifteen biological siblings.” Though he had a good childhood, he recalls, “I always knew that there was very little representation of people who were like me who looked like me or positive representations of Black males or biracial males or queer males, genderfluid males. I could never identify with the TV shows and movies that my friends and family and siblings were watching.”

Bowyer-Chapman plays Jay Carter on “Unreal,” one of the producers of a reality show very much like “The Bachelor.” It is full of delicious, venomous intrigue and some insightful perspectives on the sometimes sad, savage, silly politics of both dating and the workplace. He was thrilled when his reps showed him the script initially because of his admiration for Marti Noxon, creator of “Unreal.”

“I saw that the co creator of the show was Marti Noxon who was executive producer and writer on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” a series that deeply inspired me through my formative years and was a beautiful representation of otherness and really catered to the underdog.” In a slight twist, the current season of “Unreal” features a bachelorette seeking love (and publicity).

When Bowyer-Chapman got the part Jay was written as he says, “A straight, hustling, womanizing, sleazy producer who slept  with all of the contestants but  he was funny and he had depth to him so I found a way to make him work.” Very likely influenced by her interactions with Bowyer-Chapman, by the time they were ready to take “Unreal” into production, Noxon had rewritten the character’s sexual preference as a gay.

In a version of life imitating art, Bowyer-Chapman has several times been a guest judge on the reality show,  “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” a show Bowyer-Chapman calls the “Smartest show on television not only reality show, but just across the board.” He explains, “I think that it blurs the lines of gender. It dismantles the illusion of patriarchy of straight cis White male as being the default. It challenges our own personal identities.”

Bowyer-Chapman also started his own podcast. Warm, funny, and smart it is called Conversations With Others He’s already had guests such as actor Jussie Smollett (“Empire”), activist and author Janet Mock (“Redefining Realness”), and actress Denee Benton on.

He decided to do the podcast he says because of, “Being at a point where in my career where I’m really wanting to have certain conversations around representation of queerness and of Blackness in mainstream media.” Basically he got tired of waiting for other people to start those conversations. “We can talk about a lot about the desire for it to happen but at some point it’s come down to the place where we have to create our own content and actually walk the talk.”