Tika Sumpter is showing off more than just her fierce fashion and stylish sex appeal in her cover story of Rolling Out Magazine. The “Haves and Have Nots” actress is getting real about the entertainment business, how she sees her career, and remaining positive despite seemingly insurmountable odds.
On how she approaches acting and trying to defy the stereotypes of being a black actress:
When you don’t get a specific job and you’ve worked really hard on it; [or] when you read a really good script and you’re so close to getting a part and you don’t get it, it’s always hurtful,” she adds. “But what is for me is for me. My path is my path and it’s no one else’s. That’s how I’ve survived and it’s been in my head forever. You have a lot of disappointments as an actor. It’s a very tough business to get into and to be able to work [without being] a waitress on the side. You think ‘Oh, of course I can do that right now.’ But it’s definitely a wake-up call when you start out. I don’t walk into a room thinking ‘I’m a black actress, ohmigod.’ I always think ‘I have as much talent as anyone else,’” she explains. “I’ve been black my whole life. I don’t even call myself ‘a black actress.’ White actresses don’t walk around calling themselves ‘white actresses.’ They’re just ‘actresses.’ I go in with the attitude of what is for me is for me and I’m going to make them remember me–even if I don’t get this part.”
On the lessons she’s learned in the business:
I think one of the most important lessons that I’ve learned is to put your head down and work,” she says. “Don’t look at other people and compare yourself. Just do the work. Because when the opportunity is there, you have to be ready. Make sure your craft is refined and you’re constantly working on it. Plow through the weeds. Go to the auditions and go to the meetings and be on time. Stop looking to the left or the right. Keep your head down and keep moving.
She also opened up about the double standards that exist for black dramas and characters.
There’s a reason why people love [ABC’s prime-time hit] ‘Scandal’ or ‘The Haves and Have Nots’ or ‘Being Mary Jane’ on BET. It’s because these characters aren’t perfect. If you want to put a perfect person on TV, you will have no show. In life, sometimes you see yourself in these characters and sometimes it’s not pretty.”
Life is messy. People make decisions. Sometimes art imitates life,” adds Sumpter. “And I think, as people of color, we have to understand that we have stories, too, that need to be told. And real or not, that makes a good show and good characters and makes people watch.
Look at ‘Breaking Bad. This is [a show about] a teacher who had a meth ring. And it was one of the biggest shows. It’s a show that people love. But nobody’s going after that.
Some women are not really lifting up other women in these arenas. Which is really sad, because finally we’re getting some kind of voice,” she says of the criticism many black women have of these shows. “Some of the criticism is even louder than ever. But for the most part, I feel that a lot of people are positive about these shows and are happy to see themselves and it’s fun to watch. And it’s not just black people watching the shows—there are other people watching, as well. So I’m grateful for the masses that are positive about it and are entertained.