Tasha Smith is more than an actress. A savvy business woman, she’s made headlines for launching her own fragrance in 2011 to educating young thespians through her actor’s workshops known as, TSAW. Teaching a spiritually based philosophy to celebrities and unknown newbies for the past 13 years across America, in 2014, Smith opened up a TSAW Studio Space in Los Angeles’ Sherman Oaks. Offering classes nearly daily, Smith still takes workshops on the road. Her TSAW Master Class is set to hit Film Life & Black Enterprise’s 19th Annual American Black Film Festival, June 11-14, at the Hilton Midtown Hotel in New York City.
Expanding her brand to social media, Smith hosts a Twitter chat with Black Enterprise on Monday, January 26, at 1pm. She’ll interact and speak to those with questions about her work, the business, and how a girl from Camden, NJ leaped from the streets and onto the big and small screen with reoccurring roles on popular shows like Empire, For Better or Worse, and Starz hit drama, Power.
Black Enterprise: When did you decide that you wanted to teach acting?
Tasha Smith:Â My teacher and mentor, Ivana Chubbuck changed my life. She taught me to not be ashamed of anything that’s ever happened. There was a time I was so ashamed of my past, but she taught me how to use my past to create. After studying with her for some time, it became healing for me. Acting and creating was therapeutic. It empowered me. And I was so motivate, stimulated, encouraged and moved that I wanted to give back to other people. And one day I was asked to teach a class to a bunch of young African American actors. And I went and I did it, and it was like, ‘Oh my God. I’m supposed to do this.” So eventually I started teaching for my mentor at her studio for about two years, which was the first African American she ever had, let alone female. Young actors came from places I came from that I wanted to really help. So I ended up opening TSAW 13 years ago. Then I started teaching seminars all across America. I love teaching as much as I love acting. It is my ministry. I have a big sign up in my school that says ‘This is the church of acting.’Â I do coach a lot of celebrities, singers, actors, and I don’t always share all of that because I respect their privacy
How does teaching these classes make you a better actress?
It helps me to constantly think and seek and go deeper. And it inspires me. It keeps me in that creative space even when I’m not working.
You are on one of the hottest new shows on TV, Empire, playing sister to Taraji P. Henson’s role as Cookie. We’ve only seen a little of your character. When will we see more?
I am a reoccurring character on there for this first season. You get sprinkles of me throughout some episodes. But I don’t think my character is going to really make an impact until the second season. And we’ve already been picked up for a second season, which is a big deal. You’ll see my character Carol in and out, but she hasn’t had her full mode yet. But you know when you’re on an all start team, the way I look at it, sometimes you got to let the other players play. And you just have to wait till they throw you the ball or put you in the game.
You’ve been open about your past involving drugs and drama. Does having difficult life experiences make a person a better actor?
I would not want to say that. Although I may come where I come from, and I had bad experience, experiences are relative. You can have another person brought up on Park Avenue, Sarah Lawrence graduate, but she’s had her own experiences as a person. It may not be those I had coming from Camden, NJ. Pain is pain. Joy is joy. It’s all relative. I might have been hurt one kind of way, she another kind of way, but hurt is still hurt. I don’t think everybody has to come from the ghetto or has to have drug experience, or had to have a parent that was on drugs, or had to be raped and molested in order to be wonderfully creative. But the one thing you have to have, the main thing, is compassion for humanity. When you love people and you love people’s story and experiences, you want to tell those stores and you want to be honest and be able to show humanity through art. You want to speak to people’s souls and help change the world. Acting is such a purpose. But of course, when you’re going through stuff it helps. I always say, ‘The darkest experience can create the best moments.’
And now you’re directing …
I just directed my first film. Â It’s a short film about a young man with bipolar disorder called Boxed In. And directing is definitely the area I’m going into as the next step of my career. I love speaking and empowering people. And my school is really important. I feel we have many gifts and talents and there are many streams of opportunities to be creative and to also be able to create income for yourself. And I don’t think we should be limited to just one thing. Sometimes as actors, people may want to put us in in that box. But I don’t think there are any limitations to me, because God created me to do many things.
Be sure to catch Tasha Smith as she hosts a Twitter chat with Black Enterprise on Monday, Jan. 26, at 1 p.m. EST, and use #ABFF2015 to participate.