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The 22nd Annual Essence Music Festival just got hotter. Aside from New Orleans’ sweltering summer heat, actor Lance Gross has been announced to co-host the McDonald’s 365Black Awards, a ceremony dedicated to recognizing celebrities and influences who have made significant contributions in the African American community.

The Oakland native, known for his TBS role as the goofy, yet sweetly light-hearted Calvin Payne on Tyler Perry‘s series House of Payne, is undoubtedly on cloud nine. The 34-year-old recently celebrated his one year anniversary to wife Rebecca with their adorable daughter, Berkeley Brynn. Flourishing both behind and in front of the camera, his talent for photography mixed with his on-screen talent keeps the Temptation actor in high demand.

The Source caught up with the Sleepy Hollow star as he dished on hosting the 365Black Awards, similarities between his House of Payne character and more.

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How did you get involved with McDonald’s 365Black Awards?
Lance Gross: I presented for the first time last year and I thought it was such an amazing show. I’m really honored to be a host this year. I’m honored to help recognize a group of outstanding individuals who’s making significant contributions to the African American community. It’s also amazing to see a global company like McDonald’s consistently put forth efforts to uplift the African American community in a fun, meaningful way. Some companies try too hard or miss the mark but McDonald’s always gets it right, so I commend their steadfast efforts giving back to the community.
And just a little background, it launched in 2003 as an extension of the 365Black platform which celebrates pride, heritage and achievements year round.
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 What are you looking forward to most?
It’s just exciting being in the same room as American heroes and seeing them getting recognized. We have the beautiful Toni Braxton receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award, Charles Tillman for Excellence in Sports, Lonnie Bunch and Larry Triplett, McDonald’s Owner and Operator.
This is my sixth year doing Essence and its always great to be in New Orleans. It’s a great vibe, the people are beautiful, the food is great!
Many us were introduced to you as Calvin Payne from Tyler Perry’s House of Payne. Any similarities between you and Calvin?
You know Calvin was a good guy, he meant no harm and I feel like I’m like that in a sense. I’m not as goofy, I graduated in four years so I couldn’t relate to him in that aspect. I think he was cool humble guy so I’m the same in that sense.
Do you still talk to your cast mates?
Oh yeah we’re super close. We became family. We worked on that show from 2007-2010 and we spent so much time together that either you’re going to love each other or hate each other and we all were lucky enough to love each other. I still talk to Keisha [Knight Pulliam], Van Davis, Tyler Perry, everybody!
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 What would you consider your most challenging role?
It’d probably be Crisis on NBC. I played a Secret Service Agent, so it was a lot of background work even before we started shooting to educate myself on the Secret Service and how they operate and even how to F.B.I. operates, so it was a lot of legwork, training and studying. But it was also the most fun.
What else can we expect from you this year and next?
I’m on hiatus from Sleepy Hollow on FOX and we’re waiting to hear on when we go back to shoot. I also have a film coming out later this fall called Deuces, starring myself, Meagan Good, Larenz Tate, directed by Jamal Hill and produced by Queen Latifah‘s Flava Unit. So I’m looking forward to that!
Congratulations on celebrating your one year wedding anniversary! How did you know your wife Rebecca Jefferson was the one?
You just know. Your heart doesn’t lie and we clicked. She’s my best friend and I couldn’t imagine my life without her. You just know. I can’t really put it into words but it just happens like that. It’s a sure thing.
Lance Gross and Amber Riley will host the McDonald’s 365Black Awards on July 1 in New Orleans during the 22nd annual Essence Music Festival. The ceremony will air on BET Networks at a later date.