University students and ‘Changin’ the Game’ podcast co-hosts talk work-relationship


Photo: Provided by Jade Gray (left) and Elycia Bickham (right)

Selvyn Orellana, Contributor

Ahead of their return to the airwaves, “Changin’ the Game” University students and co-hosts Elycia Bickham and Jade Gray discuss their origin story, competitiveness and what’s up next for their podcast.

Are Cody Ko and Noel Miller really friends? What about Desus and Mero? Bert and Ernie? I am happy to report that the infectious earnestness and charisma of “Changin’ the Game” is far from a smoke-and-mirror act. Multi-faceted creatives Bickham and Gray have displayed their unabashed honesty and curiosity throughout each episode of this independent podcast of theirs. Their topics range from student life, to mental health, to advice (influenced by their own experiences) on how to grow in the entertainment industry. But above all, what makes “Changin’ the Game” such an engaging listen is their honest and warmhearted friendship. And yes, before you ask, they really are very good friends. 

With mighty ambitions and a shared living space, Bickham and Gray met here at the University as acting students. Gray was the first to extend her hand in friendship. 

“I have to explain that because whenever she tells that story, it always makes me sound like such a creep,” Gray said. The friendship began inside a group chat and accelerated when Gray proposed they hang out outside of school. “Everybody [in the group chat] was vibing, but I was like ‘Oh my god… another black girl!’” The rest was history. 

Gray has had her acting bug since her toddler days, while Bickham found her love for the screen through cheesy zombie movies she watched with her Dad. Bickham is from the congenial South, and Gray is no stranger to the East Coast. When asked about the natural culture shock of New York City, Bickham replied, “I say ‘Good morning!’ or ‘how are you doing?’ every time I enter a room. I’ve had people from New York tell me ‘Just stop saying good morning’ because no one is responding.” To someone like her, reciprocation isn’t a reason to do something nice. “I’m going to keep saying ‘Good morning!’ and one day, you might say it back,” Bickham said. This optimistic outlook carries over into the podcast. 

Act 1 Scene 1: “Follow Through” of their podcast begins with their slogan, a phrase that encapsulates the whole philosophy of Bickham and Gray’s outlook: “We might as well change the game before the game changes us.” 

In an industry that is only becoming increasingly competitive, the two women have only ever sought to work with others rather than work against them. “That competitive nature is slowly killing our industry,” Gray added. “Changin’ the Game” reinforces the idea that there is a space in the entertainment industry for everyone if you truly love what you do. 

“In this industry–whether you’re a writer, director, actor, there is always a need for you. At the end of the day, I [act] because I love what I do. I don’t need anybody else to love what I’m doing,” Gray continued. The podcast not only operates as a space for two friends to grow themselves as creatives but showcases a variety of guests who share their own approach to student life, creativity and mental health. 

“If you two were to break up, would you continue to do your own versions of this podcast solo?” 

When posed with this question about the possibility of breaking up, all they could respond with was laughter. Gray would be comfortable continuing with the podcast, but Bickham would take the vlogging route. Both reinforce that they would continue to be supportive of each other even if there was beef. 

“If you two were to break up, who would be the one extending the hand of forgiveness?” 

In a quick beat, Bickham raised her hand, and Jade pointed to her partner. “I don’t like to let things fester. I’m a communicator. If we fight at 10:00 a.m., I’m there at 10:10 a.m. like ‘come sit down; we have to fix this.’” Jade responds with, “You live down the hall; how mad could you be? I always come into her room and be like ‘You still upset?’” 

The fact that Bickham and Gray are able to laugh off and work through their disagreements is a sign that they could host this podcast together for the next 10 years.

Although it’s been over a year since their last episode, Bickham and Gray are ready to plug in their microphones once again in the upcoming new year. After Gray started up her production company, JG Filmworks and Bickham published her book “All The Things I Should Have Said,” the two felt it was time to revive the podcast. “We were doing so much that nothing was getting the right amount of time and attention.”

Departing from the usual studio space they rented, the two felt they needed a more organic approach to their conversations. “We started recording conversations we had with each other inside our apartment. If we were having a debate or a disagreement, someone would hit record and that would be our episode,” Bickham said. “Afterward, we’d look at the stack of recordings and see which parts go together.” 

“Changin’ the Game” is set to return Jan. 1, 2023 and will be available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. Gray and Bickham’s production company, @jgfilmworksproductions is open for business and set to release content very soon.