We had the opportunity to chop it up with the beautiful and talented Taja V. Simpson. Find out how this small town girl made her way into Hollywood and the challenges she’s faced while on her pretty grind to the top!
Grind Pretty (GP): How did you get discovered as an actress growing up in Lake Charles, LA?
Taja V. Simpson (TVS): Growing up, I used to watch movies, learn the lines and act them out in great detail to the pleasure of my family. But there weren’t any acting classes in my area that could cultivate that skill-set. It wasn’t until I graduated college and moved to Houston, Texas, where I signed up for Gary Chason’s Casting Director Workshop that I realized what I had been doing all those years in front of my family was actually ‘acting’. At the end of the workshop I was awarded three awards: best actress, people’s choice and best scene, which was the first time anyone had ever won that many. The actual awards were hilariously called the “Golden Walnut Awards”. That gave me the confidence to really pursue my passion and that’s when I was ready to move to LA LA LAND. Within three months of being in Los Angeles, I auditioned for an agent workshop and out of 53 actors, I was the only one who got signed. I said to myself, “I’m so happy I followed my dreams,” and that’s when the true journey began
GP: What is your advice to small town girls with big dreams?
TVS: That is a great question and it is for this specific reason that I, and my actor friend, Sabrina M. Revelle, wrote Cracking The Acting Code: A Practical Step-By-Step Guide To Becoming A Professional Actor. In it we detail all the things we wish people had told us before we moved to Los Angeles. You will learn how to discover the different styles and tones of acting, learn how to take your best and most effective headshots, creating the perfect resume and reel, as well as finding out the best way to get good representation. For me this book is a way of giving back to all the little girls, and boys, in small towns (or anyone, for that matter) who want to pursue a career in acting. One piece of advice that you won’t find in any book is to know that your dream is real, and the more time and effort you put into it, the faster it will manifest.
GP: Many people know you from Bold & The Beautiful. Was it hard to transition into a more comedic project like Boo 2! A Madea Halloween?
TVS: The center of every character is their humanity and their truth. Once you’re able to identify that and what drives them, it makes the transition easier to live in the moment, whether in a dramatic or comedic project. The Bold and the Beautiful was also a great training ground for my first project with the Tyler Perry family. He shoots very fast so you have to be prepared and ready and you’re given a lot of dialogue with a short amount of filming time, which is very similar to how daytime soaps operate. It’s survival of the fittest.
GP: Tell us about the character you play in Boo 2!.
TVS: Debrah is a fun and sassy woman who has a different parenting style to her ex-husband, Brian (Tyler Perry). She is the mother of their two kids, B.J. and Tiffany. While Brian wants to instill discipline, Debrah wants her daughter, Tiffany, to have freedom to make mistakes.
GP: Who do you admire in the industry and why?
TVS: I admire Viola Davis, not only because of her brilliance as a performer, but also because of how she looks. The barriers she has broken down, specifically as a dark skinned African-American woman, paves the way for someone like me to follow in her footsteps and to truly be admired. Before Viola, I grew up loving Meryl Streep, who has inspired me, and interestingly enough has also inspired Viola herself. However, there is something to be said about seeing the likeness of yourself on television and in film that gives myself, and brown girls alike, the hope and audacity to pursue our dreams. That is the importance of a Viola Davis to me.
GP: What future projects you have in the works?
TVS: I’ve always thought of myself as a storyteller, which is what led me to directing. I have two feature films in development right now with Lemuel Entertainment and Four Corners Entertainment titled Trinity (Action/Adventure), and Airport (Horror/Thriller). The book, ‘racking The Acting Code: A Practical Step-By-Step Guide To Becoming A Professional Actor will be available for pre-order. Also is the cover story that The Boss Mann magazine did on me as their first ever Boss Lady. This is the first time the magazine, which is targeted at men, has featured a woman on the cover. I will also be the keynote speaker at the Junior Women’s Conference in my hometown of Lake Charles, Louisiana in April, 2018.
GP: You are gorgeous! What is your beauty and exercise regimen?
TVS: Why, thank you! Well, since moisture gets sucked out of your skin and lips when you’re sleeping, I make sure I wash my face every night with my electronic facial brush to get rid of every bit of makeup. Then I use a good moisturizing night cream, and the one thing I can’t sleep without, my lip moisturizer. Of course I always have a tall glass of lemon water by my bedside every night, too. I do Plyometric workouts 3-4 times a week and eat a plant-based diet.
GP: Is there anything you’d like to add or clarify at this time?
TVS: As an artist, I use my platform to encourage and empower other women to “Speak Life Over Your Life.” By that I mean using words of affirmation versus speaking negatively about yourself because there is power in the spoken word. I fought through being bullied, low self-esteem and depression and what changed my life was accepting who I was and learning to love me just the way I am. This self-awareness led me to start living in a spirit of gratitude. I believe if you change your mind, you change your life. So I changed my thinking, my speaking and my eating.
The non-profit organization I’m really passionate about is Team Bully Buster (TBB), founded by Keta Meggett, which teaches self-defense to women and children. It focuses on giving bullied kids and their families the practical tools to get out of those situations and build confidence. They teach the kind of stuff I wish I knew when I was a defenseless kid all those years ago.0