A million thoughts ran through my head. Is she going to be mean? Will she be brief and rush me through all of my questions? Is she going to check me Angela-style from Why Did I Get Married? if I ask her the wrong thing? I missed the mark by miles with each and every one of my thoughts about Hollywood’s favorite actress, Tasha Smith. She was lively, sweet and greeted me with the most genuine “hey sis,” that I had ever heard. Smith has become a household name after portraying characters that everybody loves to hate like Jennifer, the vindictive ex-wife in Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girls. Smith spoke to us at Clutch about her passion, her triumphs, fear, and why can’t nobody tell her nothing about her Man.
Q: How do people normally react to you when they meet you in person?
I don’t know if people know how to react. When they first meet me, they think from Daddy’s Little Girls that I might be mean. Then sometimes they might think I’m just loud and obnoxious. But they’re very wonderful and complimentary which I appreciate because at the end of the day I’m really your neighbor, your friend, your sister, your cousin, your auntie.
Q: How did your background in comedy help you to transition into acting?
My comedy gave me opportunity because being on that stage everyday allowed people to see me and that’s how I got one of my first jobs which was a series called Boston Common. Then it gave me a sense of freedom and fearlessness especially when it comes to comedy because if you can get on stage and do comedy, it exercises your acting instrument.
Q: Over the past year, you have become the actress who every Black woman can relate to. How does it feel to know that so many people see themselves in you and the characters you portray?
Wow, I’m honored number one because my passion and dream as an actress is that women, Black people, White people and humanity will be able to identify. And that I as a person and an actress will be able to identify with all forms of humanity. I never wanted to be considered the actress who only this type of woman would relate to or that type of woman would relate to. I love people and I just want to be able to touch all aspects of my community. Every time I get an opportunity to go to a city I love just hanging out. I want to know where the people are so I can meet them whether it’s in the hood or at the church just so that I can always relate to them to be able to put it in my work one way or another.
Q: Why is it important for you to empower students through T.S.A.W. (Tasha Smith Actors Workshop)?
Because I came from a very difficult, urban childhood and my life changed from people empowering me and encouraging me that I had a gift and I had something special. And I see a lot of people within the Black community who are suffering from low self-esteem, doubt and insecurity, and it’s important for me to be able to empower other people like myself to pursue their purpose and passion in the arts. I feel like acting helped saved my life other than God. It was a way for me to express myself and to communicate my life as well as the lives of people who I witnessed as a young girl growing up. I always say to my students, “I need acting just as much as acting needs me.” To be able to help sew that into someone else and download everything that I sacrificed and learned over the years is a blessing. To plant a seed and see the fruit grow on someone else’s tree is an honor to me.
Q: You once said that “every moment is a million dollar moment.” What did you mean by that?
I mean for us to be able to look at every second in our work as a million dollar moment. Sometimes I’ve had actors come to me and act as if they don’t have any dialogue, it’s not important. No, that moment when you’re not saying anything is just as important as the moment that you have a monologue. Because if we look at every moment as being a million dollar moment, we will cherish it, we’ll honor it and we’ll give all that we have into it because those small moments make a character and tell a story just as much as the big ones. Sometimes we come in this industry and we think it’s just about the big stuff, but the little stuff is what develops us, teaches us and humbles us.
Q: In your workshop you cover having a positive self-image as a base to being confident in Hollywood. Why is confidence the key?
I’ve had so many women who were dark, light, fat and thin who would feel that they’re not good enough or pretty enough or ugly enough to be an actor. I feel like just like there are many different types of people in this world, we need every type in order to tell the story of life. If we individually will own who God created us to be and embrace our uniqueness, we’ll find a place in this industry rather than trying to be like somebody else. I can’t be Halle Berry or try to be Alfre Woodard; I’m Tasha Smith and my uniqueness and my individuality is going to have a place in this industry. I feel like we have to be confident in that because then we’ll walk in that room or walk on that stage and we’ll own every part of what God created us to be.
Q: Of the characters you’ve portrayed, is there one who is most similar to you?
I always say that I feel like I identify with all of them. I’m a passionate person and I understand need. I don’t know if I’m as loud as Angela, I don’t know if I’m as mean as Jennifer and I’ve never done heroine like Ronnie Boyce in The Corner, but I identify with passion, need and aggression. I try to find similar moments in my life that I can put in there to be able to identify with whatever that human beings experience is. Just because I haven’t done heroine doesn’t mean that I don’t understand the need for something to make me feel better.
Q: Recently Sanaa Lathan, Nia Long and Gabrielle Union spoke up about being a Black woman in Hollywood as it relates to pay and getting quality roles. What’s your take on this?
I feel like we have a responsibility as Black actors in this industry to continue to try to reach out to our communities as much as we can in order to make ourselves valuable. I feel like sometimes the industry doesn’t know how valuable we are to our community. People buy tickets because of Nia Long, Sanaa and Gabrielle, but sometimes this industry doesn’t understand our value. I think that the more we stay connected to our community, when we make our films we have our underground fan base. Look at Tyler Perry for instance; he is valuable because he marketed himself within his community. That’s what made him famous, it wasn’t Hollywood–he was famous and a millionaire before he got to Hollywood. Even with some of the other black films, I think we have to stay in a position to keep ourselves valuable.
Q: How can we live without fear?
I think we’ve heard this acronym before: False Evidence Appearing Real. To me, fear is a perverted spirit that will try to come and paint a picture that isn’t there trying to steal our passion and our future. I always say that “If you’re afraid, it must be something that you’re supposed to do because fear only tries to block us from the blessing of God.” I feel like we need to kick fear in the face. I’ve had my bouts with it in life and I still have to battle and resist it but it empowers me because it makes me work harder. Every time you go to do something that you want to do, here comes fear trying to tell you that you can’t do it and why it won’t work. Well guess what? When fear starts talking, I feel like we need to start talking back to fear telling fear why it will work and why we should do it, why we can do it and why we will make it.
Q: It seems like fear is directly connected to one’s faith in God.
I agree and that’s why I feel like our fellowship with God is important because we have to feed our inner man. Once we’re stronger on the inside, it’s not as easy for fear to come in and overtake us. The only way something can overtake you is if that thought is greater than the other thought. It’s like a wrestling match, the strongest man is going to win and fear is not the stronger man. A lot of times we empower fear by meditating on it and the more we meditate on fear the stronger fear gets. So when all of our faith and positive thoughts come in, here comes fear as a strong hold trying to fight against and oppose our very positive thoughts. We have to then increase the positive thoughts and the faith by changing what we’re meditating on and we have to fellowship with God. I believe in prayer. It’s like spending time with a man. The more you spend time with a man, the more you fall in love with him and the more you have confidence in him. Well guess what? God is the same way. The more you spend time with God, the more you talk to God, the more confidence you’re going to have in God. Therefore, when fear comes in and says something about your Man that you’ve been spending time with everyday, what are you going to say to them? “You’re a liar because I know Him and I spend time with Him. I’m not going to believe you- I’m going to believe the Man who I know.”
He didn’t give me this dream as a figment of my imagination, the reason why I got it is because God wanted to give it to me. All hope was against me in Camden, NJ with a dream of being an actor. I could barely read and I was talking about being in movies and on television. Fear was trying to tell me, “You’re a liar; you’re mama is a free-baser; you live in Camden, NJ; it’s not going to happen for you.” But look at me now–I’m talking to you being interviewed for Clutch Magazine.
Q: You know who you remind me of?
Q: Miss Sheryl Lee Ralph. You have the ability to light the same fire in people as she does.
I love her. Let me tell you that Sheryl Lee Ralph, Angela Bassett, and Loretta Devine, are some of the women who I look up to. I would like to model myself after them as an actor because their integrity, respect and encouragement are a blessing. And I feel like that’s something that our generation of actors has to do. We have to pull in and download into the people underneath us so that we can continue to carry the torch.
Q: Can you tell us about your upcoming roles?
You’re going to see me in a movie with Ice Cube and KeKe Palmer called The Longshots. I’m very excited about it because it’s a beautiful and uplifting movie. And something else with Tyler Perry down the line, we’ve been talking about some stuff. Also some [projects] that I’m producing with my twin sister, Sidra Smith.
Q: What’s one thing you put on that always makes you feel like you’re the most confident woman in the room?
I try to put on inspiration. I feel like if I can put that on when I leave the door, I will be able to give it to somebody else. That will make me feel really good about myself when I walk in a room. I’m not looking to take anything when I walk in the room–I’m looking to give it.
Q: When you are headed out for a night on the town in Hollywood, what’s in your clutch purse?
Blush, lip gloss, some under eye cover up and a weave brush. And one more thing that no black woman should leave home without is some Clive Christian perfume.
For more information about Tasha Smith Actors Workshop (T.S.A.W.) please visit www.tsaw.com
(Photo Credits: H. Shahani/www.clearmindstudios.com)