Diversity keeps TV and Film fun to watch! The majority of the top TV shows and Films always have a diverse cast and crew. In my opinion, I feel it will positively affect the culture by entertaining and educating at the same time.
Also, diverse television programs and films can help in cultivating an understanding to one’s reaction to people who are different and might even assist in creating positive, effective and healthy relationships.
I had the pleasure to interview actress Mystie Smith. Mystie is a dynamic and versatile actress. She made her first TV appearance in the Tyler Perry TBS hit series HOUSE OF PAYNE as Renee. Due to the success of that one episode, she was cast as one of the main “pranksters” for the second season of BET’s HELL DATE where she was given the perfect platform to exhibit her comedic improvisation skills on multiple episodes. She was recently seen in OWN’s LOVE IS as Darlene and seen playing the Health Department Inspector opposite Queen Latifah in FOX’s STAR. Her most recent work includes inspiring, true story BRIAN BANKS directed by Tom Shadyac opposite Aldis Hodge and Greg Kinnear in the role of Marilyn who was a member of the California Innocence Project who was passionately involved in the case in helping Brain Banks retain exoneration. She also has upcoming roles in the long awaited season two Netflix serial killer thriller MINDHUNTER playing opposite Holt McCallany in the role of Elise; HBO’s new drama series WATCHMEN as Hologram Reporter and as Kayla in Netflix’s second season of INSATIABLE. Mystie has a diverse body of work spanning feature film, television, new media and commercials, in addition to her powerful live stage presence.
Thank you so much for joining us Mystie. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”?
I was born and raised in Miami, FL., Michael Smith (Father) was a correctional officer and Loretha Smith (Mother) was a public school teacher. Both worked for Miami-Dade County until retirement. My older brother and I spent the majority of our younger years being groomed to pursue paths in the medical and/or legal fields. Our household was very strict and academically driven. This upbringing helped me to develop a love for reading …since that’s pretty much all I could do since we didn’t get cable until I was in high school (lol). So, I grew up with a pretty big imagination and thought everyone knew how to speak English and Spanish.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
It was during my junior year in high school. I decided to quit JV basketball (I was horrifyingly bad) so I could spend more time with my friends after school and attempt to flirt with boys (I wasn’t too great at that either) but my parents wouldn’t allow me to hang around school unless I was participating in a club or sport and that is when I saw the auditions for ANNIE. I remember the movie and all the songs and thought to myself “I’ll just help out with the production or something so I could stay longer after school.” Genius plan, right?! But the rule was everyone had to audition. So I did and to my surprise I got cast in my first role. Guess you could say that’s when the acting bug captured my attention because that was in 2000 and I’ve been on this path ever since then I started pursuing my acting career full time after I graduated from college- with a B.S. in Biology (lol).
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
In 2008 I managed to book my very first guest starring role for a major network with no representation and no credits on my resume at the time. A casting director came to a play I was in, asked for my resume, then the next day sent me audition sides and scheduled me to come to an in-person audition the following day. The next day I received a call informing me I booked the role. I am proud to say that was the funniest, popular episode of that season and it still airs to this day.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
It was during my first on-camera audition. I prepared for it just like I would for my theatre auditions, so I was very confident going into the room. As I performed my scene I couldn’t help but notice the casting director making this weird face every time I opened my mouth to speak a line. It wasn’t until after the scene was done that he told me “Ok, let’s try it again but without all the yelling.” I was completely lost on his note… yelling? I was not yelling. I was ‘Projecting’ which is what I did in all of my theatre auditions and I’m pretty sure I kicked ass or so I thought. Lesson Learned? Theatre Acting is different from On-Camera Acting.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Honestly, working on the Brian Banks film was the most exciting. Getting to portray Marilyn was both the most challenging and rewarding role to date for me. Also, I received a profound education about the number of individuals across the country who have been incarcerated for decades for crimes they didn’t commit. Brian Banks and the California Innocence Project are walking, breathing Superheroes! The most interesting project would have to be the episode I did for the HBO series Watchmen (airing in October 2019). I played a Hologram Reporter and the entire scene was shot inside a huge green screen room with hundreds of cameras set up all over the room. It was the first time I delivered lines to tiny dots on the wall instead of an actual human being while making small, steady robot-like movements. But the icing on the cake was the director for that episode, Nicole Kassell. She directed one of my favorite episodes on WestWorld.
I’m very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
In my opinion, I feel the industry has become comfortable with diversity and that certain parts of society are still trying to warm up to the changes:
A.) Many races and genders reside on this planet, TV and Film should reflect that;
B.) Children are sponges and will benefit from being exposed to diversity through TV and Film especially if they are growing up in an environment lacking in diversity;
C.) and lastly, it keeps TV and Film fun to watch! The majority of the top TV shows and Films always have a diverse cast and crew. In my opinion, I feel it will positively affect the culture by entertaining and educating at the same time. A prime example, the FX series ‘POSE’, I didn’t realize how ignorant I was about the LGBT community until I started watching this amazing show. Not only is the cast diverse but the performances are phenomenal AND I always receive an education.
From your personal experience, can you recommend three things the community/society/the industry can do help address some of the diversity issues in the entertainment business?
- The first experience that comes to mind are actors with natural hair. We need more trained stylists in natural hair on set. It’s a very uneasy feeling to sit down in a chair 30 minutes before you’re supposed to be on set and the stylist has no idea how to properly style your kinks and curls.
- Secondly, continue to offer more equal opportunity for diverse groups to direct, write, and act. Like I said, some of the best stories come from a diverse perspective.
- Lastly, promote and encourage cultural awareness. Diverse television programs and films can help in cultivating an understanding to one’s reaction to people who are different and might even assist in creating positive, effective and healthy relationships.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1.) A legit agent only gets paid when you book a job;
2.) It’s acceptable to project during theatre auditions not so-much during on-camera auditions;
3.) Know your WHY;
4.) Flawless talent does not guarantee you’ll book the job;
5.) Learn to enjoy the auditioning process since that’s essentially an actors JOB;
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
- Learn to take breaks vs. quitting.
- Understand that it’s ok to feel discouraged/frustrated/doubtful at times during your journey just don’t stay in that mental space for long.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would love to inspire a movement that brings an end to abuse against women and children. Volunteering in shelters, although helpful, only does so much.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My father was the first person to ever support my dream. He drove me to all my auditions before I got a car. He financed countless head shots, out of town call-backs and was always my #1 shoulder to cry on when that “big break” role went to another actor. He would constantly crack me up whenever he’d randomly say “When is Tyler Perry going to put you in another show?!” as if I had his number on speed dial to inquire. He always told me to “keep throwing rocks until I hit something.” My career would’ve ended a long time ago if it wasn’t for my father’s selfless love, support and sacrifice. He passed away on November 22, 2018 but I can still feel how proud he is of me for never giving up on my dream. Forever a Daddy’s Girl. Forever Grateful.
Can you please give us your favorite ”Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Nothing is permanent in this wicked world — not even our troubles” — Charles Chaplin; (Just a reminder to never sweat the small or big stuff 😉
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Ok so, I love Cate Blanchett! I have admired and observed her career since I can remember. She’s pretty kickass. Sad to say, I don’t think she’s on social media however 🙁