After working on three movies and a TV series with Tyler Perry, the greatest lesson Tasha Smith learned from the self-made entertainment mogul is to “put your money where your dreams are”. “It’s something to be extremely proud of him for,” says Smith, whose films with Perry include Why Did I Get Married? and Daddy’s Little Girls. “People really just don’t know his journey, but every dime he made he put back into his business.”
Now Smith is on the road sharing what she has gleaned from Perry and other mentors as part of her Tasha Smith Actors Workshop – or “T- Saw” as she calls it. One of her stops includes N.C. A&T today, where she will host an acting boot camp just for the college’s theatre students early in the day, followed by a public lecture at 7p.m. Smith hopes to encourage students to still chase their life’s goals even after graduation. “Right now they are pursuing their dreams by being in college,” Smith says. “But after school, you’re still going to have some obstacles and things that you’re going to have to press forward and do”. A New Jersey native, Smith never attended college. Instead, at 18 she decided to move to Los Angeles with nothing but a suitcase, $ 1,000 to her name and a dream – be an actor. “I got on that plane and I had an uncle that lived there, a friend that lived there, and I was living from sofa to sofa,” Smith remembers.
Equipped with a natural sense of comedic timing and delivery, Smith felt the best route to acting was stand- up comedy. Eventually, she had landed an appearance on HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam,” a showcase dedicated mainly to younger black comedians. Smith’s performance quickly led to her getting signed by an agent and appearances on the sitcom “Boston Common,” where the producers tailored a role specifically for Smith to play. But as the acting opportunities started to pile up for Smith, she quickly realized that while she could make people laugh that didn’t necessarily mean she knew how to act. She began searching for a good acting teacher and found Ivana Chubbuck, whose roster of pervious students included Brad Pitt, Charlize Theron, Halle Berry, Jim Carrey, Jake Gyllenhaal and Terrence Howard to name a few.
Smith was a student there for 15 years. Then came the unexpected: for becoming an instructor. It was “a huge deal… to become a teacher in a master class at one of the top acting schools in Hollywood,” she says. Empowered by the tools and techniques she had learned from Chubbuck, Smith went on to appear in more than 20 movies and 70 TV shows, from the Vince Vaughn film “Couples Retreat”, to the critically acclaimed HBO miniseries “The Corner”. With Chubbuck’s blessing, Smith started teaching acting workshops elsewhere in order to share the techniques she had learned to aspiring performers who can’t make it to Los Angeles. “A lot of people would reach out to me and say ‘I want to be an actor, but I live in North Carolina. Or I live in Atlanta,” Smith says. “I thought, you know what? There are a lot of people who can’t get here, so I’m going to start doing three-day boot camps in other cities and mainly the cities where I want to eventually open a T-Saw”.
Written by Joe Scott