The Cycle is 7 questions with a talented Black woman in Entertainment. Today’s Cycle will be with the very multi-talented and multifaceted Jazsmin Lewis. From musician to actress. The girl has starred in some of your favorite big budget movies as well as your classic sitcoms. She also is a skilled musician who has toured with legends like the Ohio Players, Gladys Knight, and George Clinton to name a few. Whether it be on the set of Martin to Meet The Brown’s, Ms. Lewis does it all. In fact, it seems as if there is nothing that this supernova cannot do.
1. Brown Sista: You were originally a singer. You play several instruments and you started at a very young age. Why put your energy into acting?
Jazsmin Lewis: I play everything but no wind instruments. I play the drums, piano, guitar, bass, etc. The music industry changed. It was right around the time where everything got very automated. Musicians were not as needed in the studio as they used to be. I noticed the business was changing. To be honest, I felt like I did not know how to do anything else. My degree was in music. I simply decided that I would act. It was really that simple for me. I did not know any actors, and no one ever told me that I could not do it. I tried it and I was very comfortable. I literally decided to become an actress. I called a friend of mine who did some production for a kid who was a child actor. I asked him if he knew anyone that was an actor. He was like yeah I’m producing this kid that acts. His mom was his manager. So, I called his mom, she lived down the street from me. I read for her. She signed me that day. The next day she got me an agent. I had no headshot or anything. It was just me but he signed me. He called me the next day and he had an audition for me. It was for the show Martin. I booked it. They called me the next day and told me I got it. I went to work. Every since then I just never stopped.
2. Brown Sista: You were lucky that it just fell into place for you. You have done alot of roles and are very rarely out of work. You have been in everything from sitcoms to large studio movie roles. Let me run down your resume girl. You were in Barbershop, Martin, Tyler Perry’s Meet The Brown’s, Three Can Play The Game, which is the sequel to Two Can Play That Game starring Vivica Fox, and recently The Brothers on Fox to name a few. Which role was your favorite?
Jazsmin Lewis: My favorite character was in a movie called Traci Townsend. I played the title role. It took people on such a journey. It is always great to play really flawed people. If you are too perfect, then that is not interesting to me. She came out the other side. I liked immersing myself in that.
3. Brown Sista: You have also toured with legends in your music career. Gladys Knight, Zapp, The Ohio Players. Are there any funny stories or experiences, you can share?
Jazsmin Lewis: I was on tour with Roger Troutman and Zapp. Roger made this statement where he said ” I never come off the road.” He literally built a tour bus that was a recording bus. He never had to go home. I was with him probably a total of 3 years consistently. I was a bass player for him and I had missed sound check. I didn’t get to walk the stage before the performance. I was a girl bass player so they like to play that up. Always very girly, short skirts, heels. I am walking around on stage doing my thing. I noticed that there were alot of other band members staying on one part of the stage. I thought maybe they did not feel like moving around. It was time for my solo and I was getting ready to go hard. I walked to the other part of the stage and fell straight through the stage! I was caught by my bass. The audience did not know if it was part of the show for my to fall through the stage or what. I remember swinging one foot up, I could not get all the way up. I kinda laid on my back and did my solo. I remember playing the rest of the entire show right there. They could not pick me up. I was in like a pit. One leg through and the other one out. I was laying on my back and my bass was on my chest. When the concert was over, Roger had a thing where he would run off the stage. No one realized that I could not get up. So when it was over they left me there. I was like screaming and yelling until they came. Fortunately I did not get hurt. (laughs)
Brown Sista: Girl, that is funny as hell. You are a soldier because once I fell through the stage that would have been the end of the show for me. I would have been hollering. The mere fact that I was in a pit would have freaked me out. I’m just not that devoted. I’m interviewing you right now, if someone busts in my house, the interview is over.
Jazsmin Lewis: (laughs)
4. Brown Sista: You have done big budget movies as well as straight to DVD. What are your thoughts on people, or actors who think that straight to DVD movies is beneath them or not a good direction to go in their careers? Why did you decide to go in that direction?
Jazsmin Lewis: Well, my feelings on straight to DVD is that it’s the backbone in independent film making. Actors of color thrive in the indie world. More so, most actors start in independent film so to forsake what gave you your entree into film, is a little sad to me. I know this may come off a little harsh but it really irritates me when actors feel better than the medium of film making that made us who we are in many ways. I do love studio films. Some of them actually have great scripts and obviously amazing budgets. Barbershop was an MGM studio film and I would never pass on that movie. Some studios really know how to make amazing, poignant and profound films. But they are also in the business of making money so, such films may be fewer and more far between. Whereas the indie film has no one to answer too except the film maker. And usually that passion shines through. More risks are taken and more complex characters are allowed to emerge. So, I do have a hard time with actors that think they are above the independent film. Maybe the independent film is above their ability… Hmmmm ???? I will always do good indie movies. They gave me my start and they provide me an artistic outlet that satisfies me. I’ll also always do big budget films because they are also good. You just have to be discriminating and not allow yourself to get caught up in the money.
5. Brown Sista: What projects are you presently working on:
Jazsmin Lewis: I just did an episode of The Brothers on Fox. I did an episode of Tyler Perry’s Meet The Browns. I have a new show called My New Life. It is on a brand new network called TMB. They are rolling out 17 shows this spring. It is about a basketball player who has a career ending injury. He has to come home to his family. He has to find what his new life is going to be from being a super star basketball player to coming home. I play his oldest daughter. It is going to be a one hour sitcom. We go into production this week. I also have a new movie coming it is about the Ultimate Fighting Champions. All four of us grew up in an orphanage. As we got older the guys got into the fighting and became champions. It really pull you into what it is like to be a part of that sport. Which by the way is a very bloody, scary thing.
Brown Sista: I know, I have a friend from college who does that and I always tell him that he is crazy. It is worse than boxing.
Jazsmin Lewis: It really is because there are no rules like there are in boxing.
6. Brown Sista: Tell me about your production company that you run. It is called Feliine Production.
Jazsmin Lewis: I wanted to do the characters that I wanted to do. Otherwise, I would continue to play the same recycled girl over and over again. After a while it just isn’t very interesting. I started it about 6 months after my first job. We have done 6 features, 15 shorts and some commercials. We are going into production this February. It is very female motivated. The department heads that I hire are mostly women.
7. Brown Sista: That is amazing! You have an expansive career. Do you have any advice for other upcoming actresses that are trying to become involved in film?
Jazsmin Lewis: Pick your line in the sand and stay behind it. Do not let someone coerce you into becoming or doing something you don’t believe in just for a job. It will eventually backfire. I know girls who go out with producers or directors, they do get the job but they are talked about so horribly that they never work again. Whatever your line is, find out who you are and stick with that. Find your integrity and stick with that. If you allow it, this industry can strip you of all your integrity.