Smith: Why Did I Get Married
Tasha Smith is a larger
than life actress who brings an endearing combination of
chemistry, raw intensity, vulnerability, and sheer
sensuality to every character she portrays on the big
screen. In other words, sheís a consummate thespian who
is just loved by the camera. And her memorable
performances in two Tyler Perry pictures last year,
Why Did I Get Married and Daddyís Little Girls,
led this critic to name her the best African-American
actress of 2007 in my annual film Blacktrospective.
beguiling beauty has played a wide range of roles in
such feature films as ATL, The Good Mother
and The Whole Ten Yards. Tasha is also well-known
for her critically-acclaimed portrayal of the
drug-addicted Ronnie Boyce in HBOís Emmy Award-winning
mini-series, The Corner, directed by Charles S.
She has guest starred on
such popular television shows as Nip/Tuck,
Americaís Next Top Model, Girlfriends,
Without a Trace, and Strong Medicine, among
others. Plus, sheís served as the executive producer and
host of her own talk show for the Oxygen Network,
Tasha Vision, guest hosted, Later with Greg
Kinnear, and recently appeared as a field
correspondent on The Tyra Banks Show.
Away from the set, she
divides her time between sharing her inspirational life
story as a motivational speaker and mentoring aspiring
actors at the Tasha Smith Actors Workshop in Los
Here, Tasha talks from
the heart about both her career and her fears.
* * *
KW: Hey, Tasha, thanks for the time.
TS: Kam, are you
kidding me? I am so honored and excited to talk to you.
How are you doing?
KW: No, Iím
honored to be speaking with you. In my opinion, you were
the best actress last year, hands down. Iím just
surprised your work wasnít widely acknowledged during
awards season. But I guess, like the way it was for
Philip Seymour Hoffman and some other great actors and
actresses, it takes awhile to get recognized. After all,
Christian Bale still has never been nominated for an
TS: Yeah, I
understand that. I really do. I just thank you for all
your wonderful comments.
KW: Those were
simply my honest appraisal of your performances. What
did you rely upon to create the characters, Angela and
Jennifer, that you played in those Tyler Perry movies?
sometimes other actors do or donít agree with my process
in terms of the approach that I use and teach to my
students. [Chuckles] But I feel that once you look at
and discover what a characterís need is within a script,
every character is already in us based on their need,
whether that need be for power, love, acceptance,
forgiveness or something else. You follow me? So, after
I discover that for the character within the script,
then I find things within myself that I can activate
that could help me to tell the story of the character.
KW: Do you
research a character, too, or is it all an internal
TS: I did do
research for Daddyís Little Girls, because of
Jenniferís belief system in terms of selling drugs. So I
spoke to a bunch of different drug dealers who really
didnít want to reform. They didnít want to change. I was
just trying to understand the mentality. We all have a
psychological reason why we have adopted the belief
systems which determine our perspectives and directions
in life, and our actions. I try to understand that
mental part of the character in order to figure out how
I might relate it to myself and to similar people Iíve
seen and experienced. I end up with layers of things,
but overall, and I donít know how people will feel about
this statement, overall, I think that there is a part of
us in every character we play, a desperate part of all
of us that we could utilize. Not that, if someone plays
a murderer, thereís a murderer within that person, but
thereís a seed to get power back within that person.
makes me think of Javier Bardemís frightening portrayal
of the killer in No Country for Old Men. That was
quite a despicable character.
TS: Yes, but, as
an actor, you have to stay true to the character. We can
never judge our characters. All we can discover is why
they so badly need to do what theyíre doing. And
everyone has a reason why, even a murderer. For example,
when I did The Corner, everyone may not
necessarily be a drug addict, but everyone has a vice
thatís in the life of a drug. You follow me?
TS: Everyone has
something that they desperately need that makes them
feel good, that they donít want anything to get in the
way of. Whether itís a manís golf game . . . whether
itís a womanís cooking . . . I have a friend who
has to clean. Sheís addicted to cleaning. Thatís her
drug. When she becomes upset and frustrated that sheís
not getting enough sex from her husband, she has to
clean. So, everyone has their addiction.
KW: I think
you also did an excellent job as Angela in Why Did I
TS: Thank you. I
tell you that role was interesting for me in that it
helped me get freedom, because I was going through my
own divorce at the time, and I think that we can live
vicariously through our characters. So the stuff that I
might not have been able to say or do in real life, I
could live all that as Angela. And I joke with women a
lot, because they come up to me and say, ďI love the way
you spoke up and got him. My intention was for her to be
every black womanís hero. I wanted her to be that woman
who would put every ho in check. You know how weíve all
had that kind of woman come into our lives? Well, we
needed a spokesperson, and I wanted Angela to be that
KW: What I
liked about your treatment of Angela was the richness
you brought to the character. She wasnít merely the
stereotypical, sassy, superficial, one-dimensional
sister we usually see on the screen.
TS: You know what
was the best thing to me about Angela? That she got a
chance to say everything she needed to say, because
sometimes, as women, we donít get a chance to do that.
She got a chance to say everything she needed to say,
and to allow herself to be frustrated, angry and hurt,
but she still was able to get her man back. That was a
blessing. I love that I was able to do that, because
personally, for myself, divorce was really sad. I felt
bad to have to get divorced. I wasnít proud of that.
But, in that role, I got a chance to see what it feels
like to win. It was great to see that these two could
have all their differences, and all the drama . . .
Hello! Yet, then they had the restoration. It was
wonderful! I was so happy about that, I couldnít tell
KW: I see
that youíre playing another character named Angela in
Something Like a Business, an ensemble comedy with
Keith David, Kym Whitley, David Alan Grier, Clifton
Powell, Kevin Hart and a bunch of other folks.
TS: You know
what? Something Like a Business, Iím going to
tell you Kam, was my ďfunĒ movie. That was kind of like
me going to the amusement park with a bunch of my
friends. It is a funny, silly comedy. I play a
completely different character. Sheís a broke escort who
moves from New Orleans to Washington, DC. Her escort
company doesnít have any money, so theyíre trying to
figure out ways to make some money. Itís a little spoofy
and very different, but I think itís entertaining and
people will get a good laugh.
are you filming now?
with Ice Cube. Itís a wonderful movie. Keke Palmer plays
my daughter. This film is absolutely fantastic. Itís
such an uplifting story. And Iím enjoying it so much
because I donít have any children, and everything is
about my daughter. I just love it because I want to have
children one day. So I enjoy playing this woman Claire
whoís trying to help make her daughterís dream come
true. Itís beautiful. I think youíll get a kick out of
originally from Camden, right?
TS: Born and
did you leave New Jersey?
TS: I moved out
of Camden when I was 18, turning 19.
KW: Do you
still go back?
TS: We went back
and got the key to the city. I did a little tour there
and spoke at the high schools and at the performing arts
schools, and took a bunch of friends from the Ďhood to
the opening day of Why Did I Get Married.
KW: I know
you have an identical twin, Sidra. Usually, one twin has
a more dominant personality. Let me guess, itís you in
probably me. [Laughs] But sheís strong, too. Iím
probably more vocal.
KW: Is she
an actress, too?
TS: No, she works
behind the scenes. Sheís a terrific
producer/director/writer. She doesnít want to have
anything to do with acting.
KW: Is she
producing anything with you in mind?
TS: Yeah, we have
a few projects weíre working on right now. Sheís
actually producing one of E. Lynn Harrisí books, Not
a Day Goes By. Weíre also working on an amazing film
of hers called A Luv Tale, based on a short that
she wrote and directed about a lesbian relationship
between an older woman and a younger woman, and how it
affects everyone around them. And we got another fun
script called Whoís Got C-Dogís Money.
Bayan, Realtor to the Stars, wants to know where
in L.A. you live?
TS: I live in
Columbus Short question, would you describe yourself as
TS: Wow, well how
about this: Not only am I happy, but Iím excited. Iím so
excited Kam, I canít even tell you.
there a question that interviewers never ask that you
wish one would ask?
TS: Yes, ďAre you
are you ever afraid?
TS: Yeah. I talk
about this a lot to my students. I remember how I had to
confront the fact that I had fears in my life. There was
a time when I just felt like a superwoman. I was like,
ďI got Jesus! I ainít afraid!Ē But, the truth is, I want
to do things right, and sometimes I am afraid that Iím
not good enough, or that Iím not going to handle
something right. And sometimes Iím afraid and asking,
ďAm I going to get married again? Am I going to have
children?Ē You follow what Iím saying?
TS: Itís not that
I walk around with . . . gripped by fear, but when you
sit with yourself and look in your heart, you sometimes
ask yourself, ďWow, what were you worried about?Ē The
root of worry is fear. If Iím ever stressed out, whatís
the root of stress? Fear! Do you follow what Iím saying?
If I ever have a little anxiety, whatís the root of
that? Fear! You feel me?
TS: So I think
sometimes weíre not transparent enough. We in this
entertainment industry try to act like weíre so super
powerful. Weíre not being honest, because weíre human,
and in our humanity thereís a little fear.
recently reviewed a new book by Terrie Williams called
Black Pain which says that in
African-American culture thereís pressure on the
brothers to adopt a macho swagger and on the sisters to
be supportive superwomen who often deny their own needs.
She says black people need to let down their defenses
and to show some vulnerability.
TS: I agree with
of books, bookworm Troy Johnson wants to know what was
the last book you read?
TS: Well, actually, one
that Iím still reading is called Developing the
Leader within You by John C. Maxwell. I love a
lot of self-help books, and this one has been wonderful.
The one I read before this was Becoming a Person
of Influence, also by John C. Maxwell. I feel
that with these opportunities I have, I want to not just
be a celebrity, but to be an influence. Iíd like to help
empower and encourage other people to pursue their
purpose, whether itís through me telling the truth of my
life, like what I just shared with you about fears, or
just being open and transparent and encouraging and
compassionate towards humanity in general.
the other day, I asked Sean Combs what book he read
last, and he impressed me when he said it was Good
to Great by Jim Collins. Thatís a powerful
self-help book that Iíve read and reviewed and highly
TS: Well, Iíll
have to pick that book up.
Iíll check out yours. Now, I see that you were Gayle in
ATL. Remind me which character was that?
TS: Gayle was the
mother to the twins, like my own mother in real-life.
KW: I remember
now, the girls who were always on skates. Yeah, thatís
funny, since youíre a twin.
TS: They were
always in trouble, and I had to snatch them out of the
didnít really know you when I saw ATL. Iím going
to go back and check it out again and focus on your
performance. I bet you stole all your scenes.
TS: [Giggles] It
was fun. I tell you, afterwards, everybody kept yelling
at me, ďHey, Mama, whereís the twins at?Ē [Laughs]
KW: Tell me a
little about your school. How can aspiring actors enroll
to take a class with you?
TS: Itís called
Tasha Smith Actors Workshop. They can check out the
http://www.tsaw.com/. Itís been going on for almost
six years now. Itís been a blessing for our community,
thatís all I have to say, because Iíve seen so many
actors with the dream, young people who havenít had a
chance to cultivate their gift. And now I see them on TV
shows, and with agents, and really moving in their
dream. And thatís awesome.
TS: In Los
Angeles. We have about ninety people taking three
classes a week. Itís wonderful. Youíll have to visit one
day when you come out.
And do you actually teach there?
TS: We have three
teachers. If Iím not working on a set, Iím there every
Monday and Tuesday. Iím very dedicated to that school.
Youíll never catch me at home on a Monday night. I will
be at that class.
thanks so much for the time and for being so
forthcoming. And obviously, Iím anticipating even bigger
things from you in the coming years.
TS: Well, I thank
you. My prayer is that more opportunities will come and
that I will continue to make people like you proud. You
enjoy your day.
* * *
* * * * *
Super Rich: A Guide to Having it All
By Russell Simmons
Russell Simmons knows firsthand that
wealth is rooted in much more than the
market. True wealth has more to do with
what's in your heart than what's in your
wallet. Using this knowledge, Simmons
became one of America's shrewdest
entrepreneurs, achieving a level of
success that most investors only dream
about. No matter how much material gain
he accumulated, he never stopped lending
a hand to those less fortunate. In
Super Rich, Simmons uses his rare
blend of spiritual savvy and
street-smart wisdom to offer a new
definition of wealth-and share timeless
principles for developing an unshakable
sense of self that can weather any
financial storm. As Simmons says, "Happy
can make you money, but money can't make
* * * * *
The New Jim Crow
Mass Incarceration in the Age of
By Michele Alexander
Contrary to the
rosy picture of race embodied in Barack
Obama's political success and Oprah
Winfrey's financial success, legal
scholar Alexander argues vigorously and
persuasively that [w]e have not ended
racial caste in America; we have merely
redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial
segregation has been replaced by mass
incarceration as a system of social
control (More African Americans are
under correctional control today... than
were enslaved in 1850). Alexander
reviews American racial history from the
colonies to the Clinton administration,
delineating its transformation into the
war on drugs. She offers an acute
analysis of the effect of this mass
incarceration upon former inmates who
will be discriminated against, legally,
for the rest of their lives, denied
employment, housing, education, and
public benefits. Most provocatively, she
reveals how both the move toward
colorblindness and affirmative action
may blur our vision of injustice: most
Americans know and don't know the truth
about mass incarcerationóbut her
carefully researched, deeply engaging,
and thoroughly readable book should
* * * * *
The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Boisí
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
* * * * *
If you like this page consider making a donation
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Negro Digest /
Browse all issues
* * * * *
The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
George Jackson /
* * *
The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
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posted 2 March 2008