On His Debut EP, Jeremy Pope Uncovers His Own Love Life

The musician and actor wasn’t afraid to get vulnerable on his independent release, Last Name: Pope.

Jeremy Pope wears a Valentino coat, shorts, and socks; Rolex watch
Jeremy Pope wears a Valentino coat, shorts, and socks; Rolex watch. Photograph by Jamie Hawkesworth for W magazine, 2023.

Life as an independent artist comes with much freedom—but it can also bear a heavy weight. Nobody knows this fact better than the actor and musician Jeremy Pope. In 2023, the Orlando, Florida native shot his stylish music video for “U, Lost,” the first single from his debut EP Last Name: Pope, in Latvia and Estonia because filming in the States was too costly. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” says Pope of the video directed by C Prinz, choreographed by Parris Goebel, and featuring talent from the U.K. “You are your resource, your accountability. I had to trust the process, that I was making this investment in myself, and that none of it was in vain.”

As fate would have it, the production turned out to be “the most beautiful I’ve ever been a part of,” says Pope during a video call. That’s saying a lot, considering he’s starred in multiple Broadway plays and two Ryan Murphy shows, Pose and Hollywood, not to mention the full-scale photo shoots he’s creative directed in the past. “We were all there making no money, but each department poured all of themselves into it,” he adds of the video shoot. “It reminded me of how powerful passion projects are.”

Pope’s EP, out June 21, began taking shape in 2020 during recording sessions in his closet or hotel rooms. Lockdown gave the Tony-, Emmy-, Grammy-nominated star the space to “allow things to flow under no pressure to get to what feels right.” The result is a revelatory, sultry, funky mix of R&B and mellow house. “It was therapy and an exercise in confidence because it’s a lot–arriving at feeling bold enough to put out music,” says the 31-year-old. “But I got to talk my shit. I got to explore my ego and sound, and talk about love, losing love, and finding love.”

Pope Collection

Did you always envision yourself putting out an album, or did you feel that creativity struck, and this was the medium that made sense?

I’ve always been writing and producing, but I was in a season where acting was taking priority in my life. So music became a hobby, a thing I did for myself. I didn’t have a label, or things I thought I needed to put [music] out the way I wanted to. But a lot of friends were like, “This music is so good. You need to share it.” At first, I was hesitant. I thought, “What do you have to say? What have you learned?” I decided to answer those questions through music, not a character on screen.

You recently starred in a Pride campaign for Calvin Klein Underwear, where we see you, as you, instead of a character. Were you nervous about that?

Inner child Jeremy was terrified, because I was like, “I’m going to be in my drawers. What’s my mom going to think?” But there’s a freedom in arriving in my Blackness and in my queerness. A couple years ago, this would’ve been the most terrifying thing, because I would’ve felt outed. But when the offer came, I was grounded in peace. I tried to root myself in, “This is going to affirm someone.” And I know how important visibility is.

Your music on the EP is so vulnerable. How did you decide the songs would be that raw, emotionally speaking?

Not every day do I wake up the most confident version of myself, or the sexiest. But something beautiful happens when I trust art, the process, and my talents and gifts. I think that’s the only way I’ve arrived at this moment. I believed in these moments that felt like, “Oooh, what they going to say?” At least I know I’m coming from a place of truth. I’ll always be able to double down on that because I’ve lived it.

Okay, let’s get into these Culture Diet questions. What was the last concert you went to?

Last weekend was my first WeHo Pride. I got to see Doechii, Keke Palmer, and Janelle Monáe. They’re such different, beautiful Black women. Doechii is from Florida—so shout out to Florida fam.

What is the first thing you do when you wake up?

I light some Palo Santo. Get the energy right. Then I check e-mails and the weather app and see what it’s giving so I can set up my mood accordingly. Can’t be coming in all bright if it’s giving gloom. You’ve got to meet it in the middle.

What is the last song you had on repeat?

Tems is so beautiful as a human, as an artist. Honestly, her whole album—but what’s the song? “Love Me JeJe.” I love it!

Where do you find style inspiration?

I have a folder on my phone with a bunch of screen grabs of older references. In the ’70s, men were doing exactly what they needed to, style-wise. It was glamorous. Then again, a lot of female silhouettes speak to me. Dolly Parton was on the mood board the other day.

But I have two sides. My personal style is, I am in a robe—I have stolen so many robes from hotels! I don’t have an in-between. I’m either in the house in that robe, or out in the streets, elevated.

What is the last thing you do before you go to bed?

I like to end my night laughing to sleep. I used to love Martin Lawrence’s show Martin growing up. You can put on any episode from any season, and you’re going to get at least 17 guttural laughs. The Ms. Pat Show on BET+ is like that, too. It gives me so much joy and laughter. I’ll watch either of those while falling asleep.

What books are on your bedside table right now?

The Power of Now. After losing two grandparents a couple months ago, and being in the EP rollout and [Calvin Klein campaign], this book is helping to remind me to live in my presen, not an expectation that will arrive at X day or X time. I’m trying to love on myself so I can keep giggling and vibing.