Reel Black List: Troy Pryor, producer, actor, speaker

Troy Pryor is the inaugural honoree for the 2020 Reel Chicago Black List, an annual celebration of African-American creativity published during Black History Month.

Troy Osborne Pryor is an award-winning producer, actor, and speaker from Chicago. He is a Chicago Scholars 35 Under 35, Black Enterprise TCX Fellow, and ADColor nominated Innovator of the Year. A scholar who was also heavily involved in competitive sports growing up, Troy went on to become both a record-breaking powerlifter and linebacker for the University of Illinois.

After sustaining a number of critical injuries and having a chance to meet Tyler Perry, Troy was inspired to change his trajectory as an athlete and pursue a career in the entertainment industry.

As a multi-faceted artist and accomplished content creator, he has performed on countless stages, TV/Film productions, voiceovers, commercials, and runways since then.

Troy is the founder and CEO of multiple companies under his umbrella, Pryor Holdings, including: Troy Pryor Studios, Creative Cypher, Cypher Live, Cypher Foundation, and a host media investments. Pryor has systematically built a media brand that aggregates hundreds of artists and brokers production deals to help build Chicago’s creative community.

His work has appeared on ABC, HGTV, DIY Network, TV One, and Aspire TV. His collaborations have helped cement his place as an influencer and include projects for brands like TED Talks, Chicago Ideas, Soho House, Common Ground Foundation, Next Showcase USA, Black Ensemble Theater.

Pryor is the founder of The New Breed Film Showcase (Film), co-creator of F is for Funny, curator for Next Showcase USA, and artistic advisor for TEDx Chicago. Troy sits on multiple creative boards, including SAG-AFTRA Chicago, Chicago Ideas Radical Creators, Black Harvest Film Festival, and The Gene Siskel Film Center Associate Producers.

His vertically integrated media brands have allowed Troy to release and work on multiple films and web series, and he is routinely tapped to curate experiences for many brands.

Troy continues to provide mentorship for multiple youth programs and he was a great contributor to programs like the White House project, A Call to Arts, started by President Barack Obama.

Still very much grounded in the values of his church family, Troy is grateful to be in a position to share his blessings. He continues to spend his time ministering, mentoring, and coaching others.

Troy’s years as an artist and athlete have taught him that the most powerful muscle is the mind and he strives daily to reach his full potential.

Meet Troy Pryor
What are you working on now? We just secured distribution on another show, with five other shows, five podcasts, and four films currently in production, plus over 60 live events scheduled in Chi, ATL, LA, and the UK. After being a voice and TV actor, I formed my media brand, Creative Cypher, eight years ago to support diverse creatives. Now, it has expanded to include experientials in Chicago, the UK, ATL, and LA, an editorial division, and our not-for-profit foundation. We have become a go-to for a groundswell of millennial artists based in Chicago and we are syndicating content across multiple platforms. Thanks to the growth, I was nominated for ADColor Innovator of the Year in 2018, and more leverage has come in since then.

What did you originally want to be when you grow up? Pro athlete and preacher. Athletics and church were always a huge part of my life and still are to this day. I was a four-sport athlete in high school and a member of the chess team. I was a two-sport athlete in college, but injuries took their toll, so I later became a coach. Clergy was and is something that runs deeply in my veins, thanks to my family. To this day you can occasionally see me preaching. I consider myself more of a motivational speaker with the ability to stand on any stage. The skills from public speaking, sports, and chess have greatly empowered by abilities as a media executive today.

How did you get into the film industry? Tyler Perry was a large influence. He was filming on a property my family managed in ATL while I was in college, so I signed up to be in the background. The next day, Tyler set up a one-on-one meeting with me about pursuing the industry, but I chose to focus on completing school and my NCAA career. I had to trust my gut and now things have come full circle and several ways. Stay tuned.

Who were your mentors? My true mentors we the uncles, cousins, and family members in my life. I could name several celebrities, but for the stuff that really matters, it’s fam. I don’t say this just because they are family. Let’s just say we’d need a much longer interview to cover the historic achievements behind those I count as mentors. They have touched the lives of many as well and I have noticed, the skills I’ve picked up from them greatly exceed the skills I’ve acquired from the entertainment industry.

What is your greatest achievement? Not quitting. I am extremely grateful for the many awards and opportunities that have come my way, but you can’t stop someone that doesn’t quit. Therefore, success is simply a part of the process.

What is your greatest disappointment? That I didn’t continue physical training like I did in college. I was in peak shape, so much so that when I was done playing I signed a contract to do runway for Elite modeling. I was a runway model for several years while beginning my career as a voice and stage actor. You can have all of the superficial success in the world, but your health is more value than all of that.

Name your biggest pet peeves? Poor communication, negative mindsets, and laziness.

What are your predictions for the film industry over the next decade? The internet and digital will continue to transform how we create, distribute, and monetize media. PLUS, the premium for more diversity and TRUE inclusion will rise. You better evolve or get left behind.

Name a job you had that would surprise people. Hand model… Somehow I was able to book a considerable amount of work with my hands. My hands have been used in all kinds of commercials and ads for a variety of brands.

What famous actor plays you in your life story? Michael B Jordan or Jordan Peele ☺

What do you wish you had more time to do? Watch movies.

What motivates you to create? Legacy, responsibly, and will to win.

The Reel Chicago Black List is an annual celebration of African-American creativity during Black History Month. To view the archives, click here. To enquire about the Reel Chicago Black List, send an email to Editor Dan Patton,

Top photo: Troy Pryor