Tasha Smith best known for her roles on Tyler Perry’s For Better or Worse, Why Did I Get Married, Daddy’s Little Girls and Empire is stepping into the director’s chair as part of her latest project TV One’s When Love Kills: the Falicia Blakely Story.
‘When Love Kills’, tells the true story of Blakely an abused young woman who becomes a murderess. We chatted with Smith about making her directorial debut with the film which stars Niatia ‘Lil Mama’ Kirkland, Lance Gross and Tami Roman and premieres on TV One August 28th.
What was it about this project that stood out to you and made you say “I have to direct this movie”?
Tasha Smith: Well you know I have a real strong affinity for young women, and young women in particular that have had a lot of hardship within the urban community because I feel I was one of those girls. I’ve had my life in the street at the strip club, and I felt like this is almost like my gift back telling our story. I had my experiences at the strip club but I got another choice when I moved to California at eighteen, nineteen and started pursuing my comedy and acting career. I’m here now talking to you about my directorial debut but Falicia Blakely is spending the rest of her life in prison, and I feel like it’s somewhat of a cautionary tale that I feel women can look at it and can hopefully prevent them from making wrong choices that could cost them their lives.
In working on a movie with Lil Mama, Lance Gross and Tami Roman, at what moment did you know that the cast was the right one for the job?
Tasha Smith: The second I said action (HaHa). No seriously I trust Lance Gross he’s been one of my students for many years, I knew what he had in him. I’ve worked with Tami Roman also as an acting teacher I knew what she had in her and Lil Mama was found by our casting director Leah Daniels Butler who I deeply trust. She said ‘hey Tash this girl can do it’. Lil Mama and Tami had the job before I even came on so they were the ones that had the job first. And so we worked our butts off, I prepped Lil Mama, worked with her and we got to the space we needed to get to and make it a great movie.
What was the most challenging part or scene to film?
Tasha Smith: Well the time, I mean we shot the movie in 12 days and there were some very difficult scenes I had to shoot. One scene when Mama’s character was supposed to be put on fire because the guy really did burn Falicia Blakely and we were going back and forth about whether we should burn her should we not burn her. We were going back and forth with our stunt coordinator and we didn’t have the insurance to cover if something went wrong so I just said Oh God, we’re not we gotta come up with something else. So I had to come up with that the way I shot that scene the night before and I literally feel like I had less than an hour to shoot the entire scene and get the coverage and get the emotion that I needed Lil Mama and Lance Gross to have. But we did it.
Did you film in the same locations where Falicia had worked and lived?
Tasha Smith: No not the same locations, but we did film it in Atlanta though.
Did Falicia’s family and or the victim’s families have any input or involvement in the film?
Tasha Smith: No we didn’t actually. I just did research. This story was really about Falicia not to take away from the victims who suffered deeply because of what Falicia did and the pain that she caused. Whenever you’re making a movie you have to figure out which side to tell. So for me it was a cautionary moment of storytelling because I wanted to figure out how can I stop this from happening again , how can I help this from not happening so we don’t see this again. So it was really from Falicia’s perspective and her vulnerability and her pain and the manipulation that she encountered that I believe caused her to make those choices.
What is on specific message that you want viewers to take away from the movie?
Tasha Smith: That if we don’t love our kids the streets will. I mean it’s all about influence. It’s all about whose voice are your children hearing. Who are they listening to what are their influence. I feel we have to just speak as loud as we can so they don’t get influenced by people that’s gonna lead them in the wrong direction.
Can you tell us what you have coming up with your Tasha Smith Actor’s Workshop, Empire and other projects?
Tasha Smith: My school TSAW, Tasha Smith Actor’s Workshop I have a school in Los Angeles that’s open three four times a week, we have classes three or four times a week. I’m also doing an acting workshop in Atlanta in October for three days that I’m teaching all three days and in New York for three days I’m teaching all three days. People can go to tsaw.com to get information about the workshops and join if they can and come and learn. I’m gonna be teaching for eight hours a day. It’s a serious boot camp honey we are going in.