Tasha Smith: Oh So Real

Tuesday, 09 September 2008 07:17 Written by  Frances Moffett

Tasha Smith may be one of the realest actors to date. As the hot blooded hairdresser who displayed our emotions on screen, she was our favorite character in Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married? We despised her in Daddy’s Little Girls as the malicious ex-wife and mother, and laughed at the familiar embarrassment she put upon her daughters in ATL.

 Her versatility keeps her popping up everywhere, from the big screen to the small screen to the stage.

Her newest role as Claire in The Longshots (beside Keke Palmer and Ice Cube) may be her most different character yet, as a single mother who, unlike her other characters, isn’t too vocal or opinionated. But this 37-year-old Camden, New Jersey native is sure to make it work and make us watch. Don’t be surprised by her depth. Here she talks about her characters, being a Black woman and how her spirituality leads her.

GMO: You are known for playing women who are real, strong and outspoken, and you really bring them to life. Is there a reason why you like to portray these types of women?

Tasha Smith: I like to play real, human characters whether good or bad. I like to show the humanity of life, of relationships, of people. Some people felt the character in Daddy’s Little Girls was so negative, but in order to see the good, you have to see the bad. And then in order for you to change, you have to see yourself and you have to see that there’s something in you that needs a change. And sometimes when we play characters like her, we have to be able to show people how we are sometimes and how we need to change from being that way. There are some parents that I’ve seen that are like her. She can be a mirror to a lot of people to say, ‘Wow I’m just like that. I need to change—I need to do something.’

GMO: So do you ever fear that you will be typecast?

TS: I never feel that any of my roles have been the same personally. I feel like they’ve been strong women but you have different types of strong. I don’t feel like I’m typecast because I don’t feel like any of the characters that I’ve played are the same. When I played mothers, they’re different types of mothers: Jennifer (Daddy’s Little Girls) was an abusive mom and Gayle (ATL) wasn’t. She was very loving and cared for her girls a lot.

GMO: A lot of times when actresses, especially Black women, play a certain type of role, they have a hard time getting away from that. Do you feel that as an African-American woman—a Christian woman—that you haven’t been able to receive the parts that you really wanted?

TS: I don’t believe that my color, my spiritual beliefs or any of that factors in to me not having or having something. I’m a human being and I’m going to stay focused and I’m going to walk it out. I am not a complainer. Even when I’m not acting, I have something to do. I am who I am and I feel like I’m walking in my purpose and I’m at the pace I’m supposed to be at this point in my life. And I don’t feel as though those things interfere with my destiny. You just walk in truth. You walk in who you are and you’ll be guided and led into your purpose. I don’t look at things in that way. I really don’t. As a man believes in his heart, so is he.

GMO: Have you ever had any times when you felt that, as a Black woman, you didn’t fit into the “Hollywood” mold?

 TS: I had many times where I didn’t feel as attractive as I do now. There was a time in my career when I would try to go out for certain roles, and I had a manager that I felt was negative and she would always come back to me and say, ‘You’re not pretty enough.’ She would try to tell me different things to do with my hair or the way that I dressed because she said that people felt like I wasn’t pretty enough. So there was a moment where I was walking around really feeling like I wasn’t pretty enough. I had to really shake that devil because I’m like it’s no way that I can go and endure that complex of not being pretty enough. And who are they to define what pretty is and what beauty is? I had to begin to speak different words to myself and not let the words of others discourage me from having confidence in my beauty. [That’s why I try to spread the message to Black women in our community that] whether it’s our big booties or dark skin or knotty hair, it’s pretty. We’re beautiful and there’s a place for all of us in this world and in this industry.

Many people may not know that you are a motivational speaker, and you mentioned earlier that you do other things besides acting.

TS: Yes, I have an actor’s workshop called TSAW. I started it because I wanted to mentor young actors and help them to pursue their purpose in the arts. The only way I could do it I felt was through acting classes and acting workshops. Sometimes it’s hard to develop 30 and 40 individual relationships when you’re really busy, but if I teach classes I could at least sow into them through my workshops and my classes. I felt like there were a lot of African-American actors who were not getting many opportunities to develop their craft and they needed mentorship and they needed help. So I started TSAW as a way to be able to mentor young actors.

: So besides TSAW, what else are you doing? What can we expect within the next year?

TS: I am writing a book, doing some motivational speaking. Directing and producing is a big thing that you’ll be seeing a lot more from me over the next year.

GMO: With all that you’ve been through in your life with your past, your challenges and obstacles, is there anything that you would change?

TS: Nope. I wouldn’t change anything. I’m grateful for everything I’ve been through, every experience and every opportunity I’ve had to grow, to change and to be more disciplined.

Frances Moffett

Frances Moffett

GMO Editor-At-Large Frances Moffett is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism. She has worked with GMO since its inception. With a love for journalism and all things writing, she is currently pursuing her master’s degree in public relations and advertising from DePaul University. Frances is also an editor at the country’s largest association management company and has written for a variety of publications, including Jet magazine, The Chicago Defender and The Chicago Reporter.

Frances can be contacted at Frances@glossmagazineonline.com

Follow her on Twitter: @FrancesMMM

Website: www.glossmagazineonline.com