She stars in BET’s new comedy series “Somebodies” and if you’re a fan of Tyler Perry then you’ve most likely seen her on many occasions. Maybe you’ve watched her as the slick talking dramatic baby momma, Keisha, in “Why Did I Get Married”. Or maybe you’ve watched her as the prying and effusive receptionist, Robin, in “The Family That Preys”. She is Kaira Akita. Kaira took time away from acting and her new retail venture to sit down with Clutch and discuss how she maintains in the film industry and more.
Clutch: Kaira Whitehead was the name you used to go by. Can you explain the name change?
KA: Akita is my middle name. I just prefer it over my last name for my professional name. I’ve been planning to change it for a while now, but decided to move forward with Akita during the taping of Somebodies.
Clutch: What were you doing before you started acting?
KA: I was a marketing professional for several Atlanta nonprofits, including the Alliance Theatre, Callanwolde Fine Arts Center, and the Ms. Black Georgia USA organization.
Clutch: You have a starring role in BET’s new comedy series, “Somebodies”. Can you tell us what sets “Somebodies” apart from other comedy shows out there?
KA: Somebodies is a smart, well-written comedy that really lets its characters be who they are without being chained down by stereotypes or perceptions. That’s rare in Black television. We always want everyone to portray a “positive” stereotype as a doctor or a lawyer, and in doing so, we often prevent our art from being real and viable. But Somebodies allows its characters to be individuals, flaws and all, and not representatives of an entire race. That inclusiveness is what makes the show so funny and so special.
Clutch: You seem to be a favorite of Tyler Perry. You’ve had roles in The Family That Preys, Why Did I Get Married, Madea’s Family Reunion, and House of Payne. How is it working with Tyler?
KA: It’s been a blessing. He gives new talent the opportunity to shine and to work alongside established actors. That’s such a gift. When on set, I especially appreciate his work ethic and hands-on approach. He knows what he wants and he won’t accept anything less.
Clutch: Do you see yourself in any one of the characters that you’ve played?
KA: I think I have a lot in common with Diva. We’re ambitious, creative, and open to try new things. I don’t have half her energy, though!
Clutch: What character have you enjoyed playing the most?
KA: It’s a tie – Diva on Somebodies and Keisha in Why Did I Get Married. They both have some great over the top moments.
Clutch: On your MySpace page you have that you’d like to meet America’s new president and first lady, Barack and Michelle Obama. If you did have the opportunity what would you say?
KA: Thank you. Other than that, I’d probably be speechless.
Clutch: You’re an instructor for “The Reel Deal Workshop”, which is geared towards actors, writers, and filmmakers new to the industry. Without spilling all the beans of the workshop what’s the best piece of advice you can give to a newbie?
KA: There’s no one path to success in this business. Everyone’s journey is different because every artist is different. But there are some basic things you can do to keep your career on the right track.
Clutch: What do you enjoy more, acting or teaching others about the business?
KA: Acting is definitely my first love. I’m still getting used to the idea of calling myself a teacher. My teachers have been so amazing that it’s hard for me put to myself in that same category. I really just share my experiences and advice to others, and hope that somehow I contribute to their journey as an artist.
Clutch: Some Black actresses have complained that it’s hard to find work. How do you maintain and how are you able to keep your resume updated?
KA: I’ve been really lucky to have great opportunities in Atlanta. But it is a tough business, especially for actors of color. I just try to focus on the factors that I can control – developing my range, playing to my strengths, giving 200% at auditions and on the set, and creating my own opportunities when possible. And I also remain open to work outside of Film and Television, like commercials and hosting segments, to help maintain between bigger projects.
Clutch: What actor or actress would you like to work with that you haven’t already?
KA: Wow, there are too many to name. But a few that come to mind are Phylicia Rashad, Sophie Okonedo, Johnny Depp, Denzel Washington and Tina Fey.
Clutch: Are there any upcoming projects that you’d like us to know about?
KA: A few things:
-Just filmed two guest spots as Mr. Brown’s rival on Tyler Perry’s Meet The Browns, which is coming to TV in January.
–Filming Road Trip 2 this month.
–Producing and performing in a sketch comedy TV pilot.
–Launching the Grand Opening of my new business venture A Clothes Encounter, an upscale consignment shopping party concept, on Dec. 13th from 5pm to 9pm at Like The River The Salon in Inman Park. Shoppers can save up to 75% off retail on upscale consignment fashions while sipping signature cocktails, savoring the sounds of 95.5 the Beat’s DJ Traci Steele, and indulging in exclusive discounts on winter handbags from Champagne Taste. Guests may also purchase designer merchandise donated by local celebrities in support of Dress for Success Atlanta and P.A.L.S.