Interviews

Published on June 9th, 2020 | by Percy Crawford

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Kellita Smith Gets Deep: “Acting Saved My Life…”

Kellita Smith opens up about her amazing journey!

Where do you begin when describing the award-winning actress who is one of the most versatile talents in Hollywood? Kellita Smith started her illustrious career in theater, where she captured an NAACP Theatre Image Award for Best Supporting Actress. Her lengthy discography spans over the time frame of nearly 3-decades. Her versatility stands out on the screen as she has tackled a number of characters, none in which are alike. With reoccurring roles on, Martin, Living Single, Sister Sister and The Jamie Foxx Show, her big break came when she earned the role of, Wanda McCullough on the, “Bernie Mac Show in 2001, which captured an Emmy Award. Currently, Smith plays the role of Cheryl on Bounce TV’s, “In The Cut,” which is headed into season six. “In The Cut,” has become the most-watched original series premier in Bounce TV history.

Smith really opens up about her near death experience, anticipating the role that will send her to the Oscar’s and much more!

We are definitely dealing with a lot in 2020. How are you maintaining?

Kellita Smith: I’m maintaining. It’s a lot. Especially as of the last couple of weeks. It got even more intense. It sounds like I’m a little older than you, correct?

I’m 39.

Kellita Smith: Okay, I’m 51 and I’m a child of the Black Panther Party, so I’m kind of familiar with what it means to have civil unrest and tension of that. What I will say is, I have to agree with Obama because I did hear his little segment. It feels a little different because it feels like there is more participation from a society as opposed to a specific culture. I appreciate that. With that, I’m only covering us all in meditation and prayer that it only reverberates, and it corrects itself. That’s really the posture with where I’m at with the last couple of weeks.

As it pertains to Covid (laughing)… I’m over it. I’m over it. I get it. Let’s just put some Nyquil and some nose spray and some codeine and let’s move on. I woke up this morning, my guy has the TV on, I never wake up to the TV, he does. And it was a commercial about masks. I’m not bout to buy a supply of masks, my brother. I’m not about to do that. First of all, I got too many lipsticks, and I like my smile. Listen, and I just got some implants… listen.

(Laughing). You trying to floss.

Kellita Smith: Listen… I appreciate the cautiousness that we have going into this thing, I appreciate the down time especially up until this point. Because did I not know I needed a vacation? I felt it but I wasn’t going to take one. When you got work you work. It gave me a chance to be able to pause, it gave me a chance to self-reflect and do some things with self and some things that I had pushed to the side. And not because I’m done with that, but at the same time, I really don’t want our society to get into a rut to where we’re used to not having human contact and the human kindness exchange. I don’t want us to get used to that.

Given the fact that you’re so used to working, you just somewhat eluded to it, does it take things like this for you to step back and reflect?

Kellita Smith: Yes! Because I’m one of those that don’t know how to do it. I don’t know how to say to my agents and my manager, “You know what, I’m going to take a month off.” I won’t break. Nope, I don’t know how to do that. Thank God and the angels and anybody holy that have walked this earth, I have for 30-years worked consistently.

That’s a blessing.

Kellita Smith: It is, but I can’t do this shit on a computer, so they keep me at home, nigga I don’t have no job (laughing).

(Laughing), they better get you back out there then.

Kellita Smith: (Laughing)! Let me tell you what my craft don’t do. I would have to figure out how to recraft. Which is not a bad thing, but I’m not in the mood for that (laughing). Or what I will do is turn my dining room into a stand-up club, and just start doing some stand-up comedy. I mean, I would figure something out, but it would take me to figure something out. So, what I will say is that I do appreciate what I do more so now. It’s given me a grave appreciation of being able to connect with other actors and other artists and to be able to create magic on screen. That is one of the yummiest things about my life.

We all benefit from your talents for sure. We gotta talk about, “In The Cut.” It can be seen every Wednesday night on Bounce TV. I love this show because you are surrounded by great and in my opinion underrated talents like, Dorien Wilson and so many others.

Kellita Smith: Yeah! I’ve been knowing, Dorien since the 1900’s. I think in a small reflect of it all, I think we’re all underrated. I think in the brilliance of, Bentley Kyle Evans, he may have known that, and he put us all together and we’re able to do something that actually is withstanding during a time like this. We have season six and season seven in the can. The great thing is, we’re still relevant even as we’re sitting at home.

We have watched you battle zombies, be a loving mother, play the role of a gold digger… (cutting in)

Kellita Smith: Ahhhh… I never found the gold (laughing).

(Laughing). You have so many layers to your acting abilities and come with so much range, do you think that’s what keeps you relevant?

Kellita Smith: I would have to give that credit to the theater. The theater has allowed me to… that’s my sandbox. And there’s more range to me than the shows that I’ve been able to work on or the projects that I have been able to book. I’ll wait to show what I really got to be honest with you. Most of the jobs that I have gotten is because I am politely playing what they ask me to. So, if I’m playing somebody’s wife and he is a comedian, I’m not going to overstate my welcome and do jokes and try to be funnier than him. I’m not going to do that. If I’m slated to play a zombie killer and you have two household names that are in film and television male, I’m not going to overstate my welcome and try to out-choreograph my fight scenes or try to overstate myself in a scene with them. I’m going to do what I’m asked to do. When it’s really my turn to be the lead of certain projects, then I’m going to be able to really let it loose. I await the film that’s going to take me to the Oscar’s. I’m ready to really let it go.

What type of film is that for you in your mind, biopic, comedy, action, drama? What type of film do you feel, Kellita Smith lands the lead and in turn lands her at the Oscar’s?

Kellita Smith: You know what, I don’t know, but it’s a role that’s going to allow me to be afraid and confident at the same time. The writing, the material will be the strength of that journey. It will give me both feelings, because as an actor, when you got something really special, you feel both of those things.

Three decades into your career and you feel there is a script that can make you afraid. That’s very interesting to me.

Kellita Smith: Yes! Oh my God. Afraid of a part, oh my God. To the point to where it’s like, do I really have it, or, if I let this out can I pull it back. Where is this in me? It’s an adventure. That’s probably why they think… you know most people say actors are crazy. Because there’s a ride that we go through within ourselves. If you do it long enough, it starts to become an amusement park and not a tragedy. Then your amusement park turns into a testimony and not just a story.

Okay, your statements are giving me all of my questions. Given how long you have been doing this, how have you avoided the label of being “crazy?”

Kellita Smith: (Giggling) because it’s just that. If you stay in long enough, you get to know the difference. It’s just that. Acting saved my life because it allowed me to look at certain trauma’s and realize that’s all they were. And not to believe them to the point to where they start affecting me in certain aspects of my life where I don’t get to grow, or I don’t get to breath, or I don’t get to smell, or I don’t get to touch, or I don’t get to love, or I’m not passionate about something else. What most people don’t realize, especially if they’ve been traumatized, you still carrying the trauma. Acting allowed me to look at some of these trauma’s and really say, “Oh, this is nothing but a thing of paint. I can use as a stroke on a canvas to be able to create a character or that can move a story along, or to make my plight interesting. As opposed to holding it as a secret or saying, it’s still a problem.” Does that make sense?

That makes a lot of sense. Is acting easier when you feel like the character is just like you? For instance, when you’re, Cheryl on, “In The Cut,” would that role be easier if she reminds you of you or does that take away the acting aspect of it, so you prefer your character to be a polar opposite of who you are in real life?

Kellita Smith: I think each character that I play is a piece of me. But I do my best to follow the guidelines of what they’ve given me in terms of the situation, in terms of the words, in terms of the character to be developed. So, I do develop a persona, right. But some of me does reverberate so that I can consistently do the same energy. Because what you don’t want to do is, play you all of the time. Playing you all the time starts to become complicated when the words don’t fit, or the situation seems stupid. It’s like, “I would never fucking do that. Are you kidding me?” But that ain’t you, so that’s one of those things where you don’t deposit all of you. But I would say that I do give to Cheryl is my physicality. I’m freer to kind of move around and do physical comedy because of her. I’ve never been married, so I don’t know what that means. I don’t even know how to do that. I can’t even do my own freakin hair, Percy. If you see me right now during this quarantine… forget it. So, those things are not me. Even in, “Z Nation,” if I had to do the apocalypse, brother please, don’t follow me because I don’t know where I’m going, and I don’t know how to fight before coffee. What? I’m gonna need some coffee first before we start killing people.

(Laughing). You have rules.

Kellita Smith: (Laughing) that part. Or methodically think so strategically to where I know what to do for every second, no! I’m not her, but what I can do in the characters to answer your question, is I can have enough of a follow through about who they are. And I can allow my honest self to derive to those destinations honestly.

Shad Gaspard played the role of Tony in 2 episodes of, “In The Cut,” back in 2017. He drowned last month in Venice Beach. Did you get the opportunity to know him?

Kellita Smith: I had no idea about that. I’m going to have to look that up. I didn’t get the chance to film with him. First of all, in any passing, especially if it’s not of the hands of the person, I always believe when it’s your time to go, it’s your time to go. I passed away in ’06 and I’m back. Which gave me a whole lot of insight to the fact that, God has a plan for every single body. And you do not get to determine when it’s your time to go. Even when people attempt to commit suicide and it gets botched, it ain’t your time to go. But if you attempt suicide and you pass away, it’s your time. Your number was called. You did your purpose. God doesn’t make mistakes. God doesn’t have human personalities, so therefore God is never wrong.

Why did you say you died in 2006? What happened?

Kellita Smith: I had pneumonia and I was on a ventilator for 5-days. I haven’t shared this conversation with a lot of people because I’ve actually been kind of waiting on this one. But in ’06, it was during the time where the, “Bernie Mac Show,” was being decided to no longer come back. I was actually in the hospital and the show didn’t know it. We were on break and I had gotten walking pneumonia. I had it for a couple of months and didn’t know it. I thought I had the flu. Until one day, it was a wrap. My bronchioles collapsed and that was all she wrote. I awakened 5-days later, and it was absolutely… no I didn’t see white lights and all this stuff that other people say. Not to negate what they say, but I do know, I left and then I returned, and that’s all I can say. So, what I will say, if it’s your time to go, you’re gonna go. If it’s not, that just means wake up. There’s something else for you to do.

What I will say that experience gave me was a little more pause. A little bit more chill. Not to be so anxious and not to be so scared. Which is why I feel like I would get a role like, Lieutenant Roberta Warren [Z Nation]. She became a leader. She had to lead a group of people. She was like a Harriet Tubman. You can’t be a Harriet Tubman and you nervous, what the hell (laughing). You still have a little bit of intimidation, but the fear is not the same. The fear gets translated into fierce. To be Harriet Tubman, are you kidding? Oh my God. How many pairs of shoes did she have? She was on foot. Okay! And went back and forth and back and forth on foot. Maybe a horse here and there, maybe a wagon here and there, but on foot. She didn’t have no Uber, no Lyft… none of that. I revere thinking about women like that. People like that. And under all that duress, it’s like, oh my God. I know I just got deep.

No, I love that. I’m glad I got that out of you. It’s been such an honor to speak with you, don’t be a stranger. I hope to speak with you again in the near future. Would you like to add anything else?

Kellita Smith: I appreciate you, stay safe and I’ll see you on the red carpet.



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