Actress Tasha Smith on what some are calling an Empire Emmy snub, her new Sherman Oaks actors studio and how black is back.
Photographed by D’Andre Michael
For Tasha Smith, snagging roles in the Tyler Perry movies was a game changer. But the 44-year-old actress has been catapulted into another showbiz stratosphere with one of the past year’s biggest hits, FOX’s hip-hop drama Empire. Here she chats with editor-in-chief Linda Grasso on this new, exciting chapter in her life, which also includes an effort to help bolster the skills of other actors.
With 20 feature films, you’ve had success in a really tough business. Plus it is an extra challenge being a woman and there is a dearth of roles for blacks. Talk about hurdles …
Like any sport or business, we have certain things that we are just going to have to deal with. It’s part of the game. Getting jobs, not getting jobs, ups and downs … I try to have a positive attitude and just enjoy the journey and experiences—good and bad.
Talent aside, what do you credit your successful career to?
A great attitude, refusing to give up, always growing and learning as an artist, being open-minded and not limiting myself, being realistic and being pleasant to work with.
Speaking of talent—there is a ginormous amount involved in the making of Empire. Who do you enjoy working with the most?
Lee Daniels (show creator)—hands down. He is my creative hero—a genius. I learn so much every second that I’m blessed with an opportunity to work with, collaborate with or just shoot the stuff with him. In the not-too-distant past, industry pundits would have said no way could an hour-long drama featuring an all-black cast be a hit. I feel this show has re-educated this industry on the importance of black talent and urban stories. BLACK is back.
Tell us a bit about your new “brick-and-mortar” actors studio in Sherman Oaks.
It’s called TSAW (Tasha Smith Actors Workshop, tsaw.com). I started TSAW over 10 years ago because I wanted to empower actors to pursue their purpose in the arts. I love actors and creative people, so I wanted to offer a space for the artist to create and grow in.
The September issue is our annual Women’s issue. Reinvention is a big topic right now—particularly with women post-40. How do you feel about it?
We women simply can’t be one thing for the entirety of our lives … and yet reinvention is so challenging and often seems impossible when youth is taken out of the equation. I think it’s important for us post-40-somethings, which I am a proud member of, to stay fit and willing to change. Sometimes in order for us to reinvent ourselves creatively, personally, professionally and socially, we must do something different—like breaking bad habits and behavior, or going places we’ve never been and doing things we’ve never done so that we can be stimulated in ways we have not been. I believe these things will encourage and inspire us to be greater, dream bigger and live happier.
Do you feel that, with only one nomination, Empire was snubbed by the Emmys?
We all know that it is a fantastic series and a groundbreaking success. I am personally grateful that Empire has been acknowledged, period. And I feel Taraji has a huge chance of winning because she’s wonderful on the show.
I understand you are dear friends with Tisha Campbell Martin. What is it that bonds you two?
I feel our history has given us a great bond. I’ve known Tisha since I was 15 years old. She loved me then, and she loves me still. She’s been there for me through highs and lows in life, as I have for her. I feel confident and secure that she will be in my life for the rest of my life. Our love for each other is unconditional. We are each a huge support system for one another, and I feel we are past friendship … we are family.
Why did you choose to live in the Valley?
I love the Valley! It’s quiet, suburban and a neighborhood that I didn’t grow up in. Also, you can’t beat the cost of living for great homes.
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