Tonight Tyler Perry and the Oprah Winfrey Network are showing the two hour premier for the network’s first ever television drama. An ensemble cast that includes actress Tika Sumpter at its heart, whom Oprah called a star via instagram, critics and fans alike await in anticipation of the premier tonight at 9 pm. No one may be more excited though, than Tika.
The last few years have been career changing, and no doubt life changing for Tika Sumpter. The actress, who was a series regular on the daytime television soap opera “One Life to Live” for six years, became a cast member on “Gossip Girl”, a weekly favorite on “The Game” and won one of the coveted “Sparkle” roles starring opposite the voice herself, the late, great, Whitney Houston. While these roles in and of themselves are great accomplishments, the scope of Tika’s journey is really just beginning. Armed with talent, beauty (she is also a model), ambition, and a vision board that includes Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry, Tika Sumpter is gearing up for the premiere of her newest show, ‘The Have and the Have Nots’ on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). Upon meeting Sumpter, it is not her remarkable beauty or amazing body that is the cause for attraction; rather, it is her genuine transparency when discussing any and everything. Her candid opinions are interwoven with personal stories that emit a warmth that usually one can only attain from the closest of friends. Interviews with her seem more like girl talk than a job, and always evident is her passion. From my relationships, to her relationships, secrets, women, and the industry, Tika and I sat at J&G Steakhouse at the W hotel and discussed everything. Some of her answers may even surprise you.
Brittiany Cierra: Most people know you most recently from the Game as “Jenna”. We loved you. How is it different transitioning maybe from a part of a cast, to the heart of a cast?
Tika: Uh, a little more pressure. You know “The Game”… I loved “The Game”. I’ve become a fan of the game now. I’m like Tuesday, What time is it? Ten O clock? I’m in front of the TV. I was in front of the TV like last week. But to be a part of a cast… I wasn’t the heart of it. I came in, did my part left. Everyone else had to hold it up fully. I just came in, did my little part, and was excited to be there, and was excited to make Malik change his ways (laughter). But this, it’s like being a series regular. It is a series regular role. And when it came to me, I definitely could not put it down. It was one of those page turners, juicy, juicy, juicy. And then this girl, she was at the center of this chaos. And she was somebody different. No one has seen me as this “vixen” type of girl. And that is what acting is for me. Trying to be someone else. You know I have parts of me that are vixen that nobody sees.
Brittiany Cierra: (laughter) Oh we see it! We see it! (laughter)
Tika: Honey! So I’m excited to be the heart and to have other cast members make me better, and we make each other better. Just lift up the show.
Brittiany Cierra: And feed off of each other?
Tika: And feed off of each other. Every character has their own role. Nobody’s the same. It’s like very specific. You will see it. It won’t be like ‘Oh another vixen’. Everyone has very specific jobs to do. And I’m excited. I’m glad I made the choice.
Brittiany Cierra: With the Tyler Perry and Oprah names attached to the project you are just surrounded by a lot to live up to. What have you learned at this point of your acting career that you take with you from the set,something that you have learned from working with Tyler and the rest of your cast?
Tika: Well, working with Tyler you feel like you never do enough anyway because Tyler, he can’t sit still. He’s always writing something, or producing something, so with Tyler I’m like ‘Dang I just worked 14 hours and I feel lazy’.
Brittiany Cierra: Get up! (laughter) What are you sitting down for?
Tika: (laughter) Yeah he’s always doing something you know? So for me, their work ethic has inspired me to take mine to another level. And to NOT just be one thing. I don’t think anybody is just one thing, but I don’t want to just be an actor. There’s so many other things I want to do, whether it’s owning a restaurant, or starting some businesses. I want to be a mogul. And they are inspiring me. Listen, Oprah was on my vision board, Tyler was on my vision board, and I got to them, I can do anything. And they are dream pushers. They just push me to be better and greater.
Brittiany Cierra: I’m glad you said that about Tyler being a dream pusher. There has been some stigma attached to some things that Tyler does. How do you combat the stigma when people are asking, ‘Oh you are working with Tyler?’ or ‘Oh, it’s a Tyler Perry Production’?
Tika: Listen, it happens. Everyone is going to have some sort of doubter. And here’s the thing with Tyler. I feel like, here’s this man who came from nothing. Started a studio. Do you know how many people own a studio?
Brittiany Cierra: Not many
Tika: Ok. A black man who owns a studio. He’s had successful releases, when now and days, openings don’t even do big numbers anymore. People in the executive world believe in him because at the end of the day, money does talk, and he produces, you know what I mean? He believes in his work. Listen, is everything going to be deep? Everything is not deep. Tootsie wasn’t deep. It was just fun and some people just need a release. Everything isn’t going to be monster. There are various releases and various forms of entertainment, and he’s just trying to make people happy in certain dramas. There is always a moral factor. And whether you like it or not, whether it is silly or not, he is making people happy.
Brittiany Cierra: Lots of people happy.
Tika: Lots of people happy. And Oprah doesn’t go into business with just anybody. There are always going to be doubters. All I worry about is the work. God has brought me thus far and he’s not dropping me off to say goodbye. So you can doubt, you can do whatever, but at the end of the day, people just have to be happy with their own lives and look into their own hearts and see where they are really at. But I’m proud of him and I’m happy for him and I’m happy for O, and look, if I can have these two moguls behind me, pushing my dreams, then I’m happy.
Brittiany Cierra: Well we are happy for you too. You mentioned that this wasn’t it for you and I heard you can sing. Are you interested in a music career, or taking another role with music in it?
Tika: Well I did ‘Sparkle’ so I had to sing in that, and Dee was more like the background, which was fine, because she was more about school and being a doctor. I don’t know about pursuing it right now because it is getting kind of crazy for me.
Brittiany Cierra: Good crazy.
Tika: A good crazy, great crazy for me. And that’s a whole ‘nother beast. And then, again, more critics like, ‘Oh now she’s singing’, but I’ve been singing since I was a kid. But there’s definitely roles out there, like you know, they are about to do the Sam Cooke story. So there are definitely things out there that are going on that I would love to be a part of. And if it has music stuff in it, I’m down because I know that I can do it. But to pursue it separately? I would take my time with that.
Brittiany Cierra: They recently released your friend Kelly Rowland’s song ‘Dirty Laundry’. It was a honest song as far as being in relationships, especially romantic relationships. Is it harder for you to be in a relationship with someone in the industry, or harder to date, say a doctor?
Tika: Well I’ve kind of done both, on the low. I don’t advertise it. You don’t advertise it. It’s already hard enough for anyone to maintain a relationship—
Brittiany Cierra: —without other people being in it.
Tika: without other people being in it. And ‘You don’t belong together’ or ‘You aren’t cute enough for him’ you know.
Brittiany Cierra: (laughter) I doubt you have that problem
Tika: Oh there’s always one
Brittiany Cierra: Always somebody
Tika: Always somebody. I’m like ‘Honey look at yourself, what are you talking about’. But I’ve done both. I’ve had long relationships with somebody that wasn’t in the industry and short relationships with someone that was. (laughter) It’s a catch 22 because the guys outside, they keep you steady, they keep you grounded. You don’t always have to talk about the industry but you always have to go places. You always have to travel, so it can be hard to explain it all of the time. I mean they get it, but it could wear on the relationship. You know? And in the industry it’s hard too because you have two people making this work, and we are both off kissing somebody else for our jobs. You know what I mean? I think any relationship is definitely going to have its hardships, but if you want to be in it, you are in it, and you make it work. Because for me, it’s worth it to be with somebody, especially in this industry because its so crazy. Sometimes you just want to go home and have someone to hug and be like ‘Babe, this is what’s real’, you know what I mean?
Brittiany Cierra: (laughter)That touch of reality
Tika: That touch of reality. Right,because we are so inundated with social media, and that’s part of work. You have to be involved. And I’m loving that I am more involved with fans, and bloggers, you know what I mean? It’s exciting because you don’t need a middle man really, but it can be exhausting with all of the traveling…so to go home to someone is a beautiful thing, even though I don’t go home to anyone right now. But you know, I’m working on it, I’m working on it. (laughter)
Brittiany Cierra: Ok that’s nice. (laughter)
Tika: Yeah I’m working on it.
Brittiany: So tell us more about your character on “The haves and The Have Nots”. We know she’s a vixen…
Tika: Yeah, so she’s a vixen. She’s an ambitious woman. She’s a law student who,and in order to pay for law school she escorts. Yes! And she’s had a really hard past. Sometimes your past experiences dictates how you handle certain situations in the present. Sometimes she handles things in a way that people want her to and other times, not so much. She does what is best for her. Her brother, that’s the one person that she loves and would give up her life for. Other than that she’s like, fair game. I need to get to the top, where am I climbing? Whose head do I need to step on? And there are vulnerable moments for her. There’s a loveable quality; there’s a vulnerable quality. Everyone has a hurt place, and sometimes hurt people hurt people. And that’s where Candace gets that quality from. She’s been hurt, a lot. So you will see when you watch it.
Brittiany Cierra: How are you most like Candace?
Tika: I’m definitely ambitious.
Brittiany Cierra: I knew that’s what you were going to say. (laughter) It’s such a safe, wonderful answer.
Tika: (laughter) you did? Well its true! The cool thing about playing her is that she has this sexy quality where it’s not always outwardly sexy. I remember reading something about Zoe Saldana and she’s like, ‘I may not be the prettiest, and I may not be the most voluptuous person, but don’t worry, when I walk into a room, I can compete. My spirit will compete’. Just meaning she can take a room, suck in all of the air, and have everybody like, ‘What is up with this girl?’. I feel like that quality is with Candace. For me, I have a quiet sexy. It’s not always like ‘Heeey. I’m here’. I try to insert that into Candace a little, but Candace is a little more outwardly sexy.
Brittiany Cierra: Well we are going to see all that you put into this show when it premiers [tonight], but what do you want viewers to get out of it?
Tika: Quite a few things. I want you just to be entertained and enjoy it. There’s always a moral to the story. The haves and the have nots, what does it really mean to have? And also, when you do see Candace, don’t be so quick to judge her. There are so many qualities in you that are in her, and by you, I mean all of us. There are going to be moments where you are like, ‘I know she didn’t’ but before you throw the rock at her, take the stone out and look inside of yourself. She made me… you aren’t supposed to judge your character…
Brittiany: But you did a little bit?
Tika: I was like What?! But I was more understanding of women in her situation after dealing with her. You never know where people are coming from. I was like,’ I’m not judging her’, because at first I was like, ’People are going to hate me.’ Or people are going to love and hate me, and I was kind of scared about that at first. But the past shapes who we are. And people change.
Brittiany: Does Candace change?
Tika: Uh, I don’t know about this season. (laughter) Who wants to watch paint dry? I think this is going to be fun for people to watch.
A special thanks to www.thebobbypen.com and Icy Photography for providing pictures