Tatyana Ali is featured in the July 2008 issue of King Magazine. In this issue the Harvard grad talks about her new movie Hotel California, Being Black in Hollywood, Her new album, and Barack Obama.
What are your thoughts on black Hollywood?
It’s kind of like the Wild West out there, and not just for black Hollywood. In a traditional sense, things look bad—there are people out of work, shows aren’t going up and a lot of films aren’t being made, because of the fear of actors going on strike. But I think it’s a real fertile time to stake your claim. With things up in the air, it creates new space for people who are trying to break through, business-wise.
More of the interview and another picture after the jump!
The same can be said about the music business, yet you’re still dropping a new album.
I found my voice with this album, The Light. I can never stop singing. Remember, I recorded my first album [1998’s Kiss the Sky, MJJ Music] when I was 16, and other people wrote most of the songs. I really wanted the next album that I did to express who I am. And the only way I can do that is to write it myself. So in that sense, I found my voice.
’Cause that wouldn’t be helpful to Barack Obama’s historic march to the White House, you being a volunteer and all.
I’ve been working as a surrogate for his campaign. Surrogates can be politicians, actors, musicians or private citizens—anyone who volunteers in the campaign. Since the Iowa caucuses, I’ve been going to colleges and speaking to students, not just about Obama but about the importance of participating in the process. The notion that one vote doesn’t matter really is a lie.
It’s very rare to see a child actor flee from Hollyweird to get a higher education. Those “don’t do drugs” campaigns must have seeped in.
College was my opportunity to be around my peers, which you don’t get to do when you’re a child actor. And I wanted to be normal and see what else was out there, see what else I was good at. And there are some other things that I’m good at.
I’m good at the sciences, I love learning about plants. You know, I’m a dork…it’s cool. I’ve come to terms with that and I dig it a little.
A sexy botanist? Works for us, but nobody in Harvard stopped you in the halls?
Sure, they did, but they also did that to the Latin scholars across the hallway and the number-one math student who was walking down the street. In Harvard, everybody was extraordinary in the town that they came from. When you get there, nobody is more extraordinary than anyone else.
More extraordinary than seeing you get jacked up in the upcoming flick Hotel California?
[Laughs] I do get jacked up. I’m known more for lighter stuff, obviously for comedy, but this is really very dramatic. And my character experiences a lot of violence and gets caught up in a situation where she has to fight for her life.
Do you think it’ll make people forget about Ashley Banks?
Sure, maybe. It’s not my goal. But it certainly stretched me as an actor. That’s why there’s something about the art itself, and performing, that I truly love. That still drives me. I’ve been in this business for 24 years, so there are a lot of things that I know intuitively. If I’m in the position to bring up an incredible writer, director or producer, I’ll do it in some way.