‘I’m Public School – One thang at a time, honey.”
It was in that instant that I knew that given the chance, Kellita Smith would be invited to be one of my “gurls” You know what I mean. Your 3 or 4 best girlfriends who will say the craziest things and keep you in stitches. The “gurl” who you can party with and cry with. In short, she is just one of “us”. No pretense. No drama. And with complete love – No sense.
Now even though she may be prone to self deprecating humor, make no mistake about it; she’s sexy, cool, and smart. She’s knows what the people want and as she made clear she’s not afraid to give it to them. Walking into the interview a little vamped up Kellita was peppered with questions that she coyly answered:
3BC: Kellita, people don’t know how much of a sexy kitten you really are.
3BC: How come you can’t play that up?
Cuz that’s not what they want, honey and I’m here to give them what they need… I can play sex kitten on my next one. I can be auntie…
Yet, we point out that her character in “King’s Ransom” is anything but a sex kitten, in fact, she seems to be a gold digger so, what attracted her to the part? At that moment, we find out that Ms. Kellita will speak her mind from scorned women to black images and god love her for it.
3BC: Tell us who this woman is in King’s Ransom. She comes across as a gold digger, so what attracted you to the part?
Well the back-story is that she helped Malcolm climb to the top, sweetie. Read the Cliff notes. She and Malcolm started out together and helped him acquire this business and like most men, ahem...once they get to a better place they, ahem...get to trippin' – cute little secretary – he was trippin'.
3BC: Are you concerned about any kind of possible slack from sistahs who are going to view her negatively like she’s a gold digger?
Oh naw, honey. She’s more harmless than that and she’s not a gold digger so much as she’s possibly – a kinder word - an opportunist. And so because of the betrayal of Malcolm, they are getting a divorce and of course she wants to do what most women want to when they are scorned and who left to their own devices – she fights back.
3BC: Gets even?
Well – sumthin like that. And I don’t think sistahs are going to get mad. They are going to be like “Get that Mickey Fickey!” You know? You know they are sick of it. Cats want to get away with it. You know what Ray Carruth saying. You know, he's in jail talking about “I coulda went to the super bowl…..”
No she didn’t just bust on Ray Carruth! Now I know, without a doubt that Kellita doesn’t have any sense either. But I say that with love and devotion. The truth is, right or wrong, I cracked up. But I also learned that she is not afraid of controversy. She’s also a woman who when pressed will show a much deeper side.
3BC: What are your thoughts concerning the controversy about Latina actresses stepping into roles opposite African American men. Some people feel that black women are losing out on jobs. What are your thoughts as an actress?
First of all, there aren’t enough roles out there period. And secondly, we’re to the point now where as a culture, we need to step up our own game and we can’t continue to be offended by the choices of the business because we will always be offended, because they don’t think of us in terms of our feelings and what our struggles may have been and what our reparations may be terms of this business. If we continue to wait for that, we are always going to be sad, so me and some other people absolutely understand that we are in the position now to have a hands on approach and maybe not necessarily be a part of the project, but maybe be a producer and have images and scripts that reflect who we really are and what our culture is about and where it’s been and where it’s going. And what we have contributed to this culture, but until then we are always going to be offended by what the business does, because quite frankly the business gives a shit about us. And so a Latina woman getting a job? Go get it because in 5 more minutes it’s going to be an asian chick. 5 minutes after that they gonna come up with a green one. I mean you know, they cloning. Ain’t no telling. But it’s just a revolving door. Perhaps it was a white woman’s cry 10 years ago. It’s just a repetitive thing and if continue to allow history to dictate to us what we can give, then we gonna be sad.
3BC: That said, it’s a great time in Hollywood for Black entertainers, both in the box office and in terms of accolades. How does it feel to be working during this time and what has it done for your motivation as a working actress.
Employment is great! It’s allowed me to be fruitful. I absolutely understand that people have paved the way for me and I do not take that lightly. You know. And I don’t think that other brothers and sisters should because it really is indicative to how far we’ve come and those people who have actually had to open those doors for us and for us to walk through those doors and not be afraid and then go get what we deserve as opposed to just settling for this little check here. You need to open it up, because once you get into the show, you need to expand. We need to expand. I can’t just leave at I’m just - Not naming any names – I’m just an entertainer and this is what I do. Blah, blah, blah, but I don’t do anything for my culture or my people or Method and Redman who had the nerve to put on that show and then act like they are black. I’m evil about them. That doesn’t even make any sense. You’re not doing it to - If you’re not doing it to make a statement and you’re not doing it to make money – then whatcha doin’? Whatcha doin’? Cuz you’re already paid. Part of a 5 billion dollar industry. So why are you now doing television? Are you making a statement? Are you playing? Whatcha doing? Okay? That’s why you need to go. We didn’t need to protest or nothing. It went away.
3BC: Speaking of television, what brought you to the Bernie Mac Show?
Unemployment. And well you know, to be P.C., what attracted me to the part was she wasn’t conventionally traditional. She held her own job and she didn’t necessarily have a kid and wasn’t the typical mom or housewife. You know, she kind of has her own identity and blah, blah, blah. I think they are a little slow in the rotation for making her maternal. Instinctual. Because that’s just not true to an African American culture. You know ain’t no way three kids gon’ come in my house and I don’t know their itinerary. You know their daily struggles or what they eat during the day. But hey, you know it’s t.v.
3BC: Do you think you’d ever like to write your own project?
No. That’s too much work. Look, I’m public school. One thang at a time, honey.
3BC: What about directing or producing?
I have my own production company and with that I’m able to do the theatrical ensemble group and produce something so I can’t just act or be a liaison to some other situation and that’s kind of what I prefer. My production company is called “Strange Fruit”. I got the name from the Billie Holiday song.
And this just further proves how deep Kellita really is. If you’ve never heard this song before, it’s about lynchings. The “Strange Fruit” are black people swinging from trees after being lynched. But beyond that, she is paying homage to those who walked before us.
3BC: Is Billie someone you admire? Would you like to play her story at some point, or did it just resonate with you?
It just resonated with me because I feel those people are deserving of some type of reparations and why not be the person for that. Billie Holiday, I respect her. In fact, my sister has a one-woman Billie Holiday show. But, if I wanted to play anyone, it would be Eartha Kitt.
Cuz I can sound like her. (and she can too. exactly like her)
3BC: What are you doing while on hiatus?
Sleep. Hopefully a movie. Last year I did three movies. I can probably push out one more, but I really need to get on stage. I’m really getting ready to do a play.
3BC: There are tons of stereotypical roles out there. You can name them before you see the movie. Hattie McDaniel said, "I’d rather play a maid than be one." Is that how you look upon stereotypical roles? What’s your stance on it?
Well, to each his own. I don’t know what anyone needs to do in order to survive. But in today’s world, I make a conscious decision not to pick roles that are backwards. Or will set me backwards. Or set my culture backwards. To me, if I’m playing a maid who doesn’t get to be an heiress, then that’s out. It’s not gonna be me. She might be a Latina.
3BC: How did you fall into acting?
I was fired from 4 jobs and that kind of did it.
3BC: I mean was it your passion?
I didn’t know at the time. I wanted to be a lawyer. I’m a child of the Black Panther party. I wanted to get incarcerated brothas out of jail and blah, blah, blah. And then I saw the law library and I said, ” I’ma have to do something else.” I worked at Macy’s. They had me working in the men’s department trying sell tacky clothes. They weren’t going to sell by themselves so I had to talk to the people. So, of course, I got fired for socializing too much. Then I got fired from an insurance company because that was my Norma Rae rendition.
Yeah, and got fired the next day. Sending letters with grammatical errors to the bosses in Cleveland… that mighta did it. They kinda marched me to the door.
Whether playing a scorned wife or trying to unionize – one thing is clear, Kellita is a fighter and she’s here to stay and damn it, Hollywood is going to respect her come hell or high water.