Posted on: January 16, 2024 Posted by: Christina Bronner Comments: 0

Jasmine Guy: An Icons Journey Through Time and Excellence

By: Tammy Reese

Courtesy of Jakeem Smith – Jay Productions Agency

In a captivating and exclusive Upscale Magazine interview with legendary actress Jasmine Guy, we delve into the illustrious chapters of her career, from the beloved “A Different World” to the recent Primetime Emmy Award win. Join us as we explore the 35th anniversary of “Harlem Nights,” her role in “Chronicles of Jessica Wu,” and the meaningful connections with the late Tupac Shakur and his mother Afeni Shakur. Get ready for an insightful conversation with a trailblazing icon who continues to inspire and leave an indelible mark on the world of entertainment.

Tammy: Hello Jasmine! To say it’s an honor to interview you would be an understatement!

Jasmine: Thank you Tammy! I appreciate that!

Tammy: There’s so much to cover, but first, congratulations on winning your first Primetime Emmy Award! What does this moment in your career mean for you right now?

Jasmine: Whoop Whoop! Thank you! It was a great feeling! I’m just happy and high on gratitude. I’ve been so fortunate to have great teachers, mentors, choreographers and so many people who’ve poured into me. It was a great journey and I hope that they know I got the award for them too! I’m from Atlanta, I went to Spelman Dance School when I was a little kid, I went to Atlanta Ballet and I went to Northside School of The Arts. I owe everybody, thank you! 

Tammy: Speaking with so many people in the media and entertainment community, everyone is saying Jasmine Guy and Angela’s Bassett’s win is a win for us all.

Jasmine: Thank you! I feel that way as well.

Tammy: Chronicles of Jessica Wu is a series about an autistic girl in Los Angeles becoming a superhero, and using her skills to take down ruthless villains. Please tell us about your character, What drew you to this particular project, and what do you love most about this series?

Jasmine: The series had already aired when I joined the show. It’s a small Black company with a husband and wife producing team who has a child with autism. A lot of the work that they do is to fund and fuel their autism foundation. They do a lot of educational programming to provide resources and support. What drew me to the project was because it has a purpose, and its sci-fi.

The cast is so good, especially during those big fight scenes! I was very impressed by what they did with no money. There are all of these different entities that are against each other, the bad guys and the good guys. My character (one of the bad guys) is trying to recruit agents and my company has this procedure that erases their memory, making them super human.

Tammy: A Different World holds a special place in the hearts of many fans. Looking back at your career, a major beloved role that fans still praise and love to this day is none other than Whitley Gilbert-Wayne. What do you think contributed to the show’s enduring popularity, and how has it impacted your life?

Jasmine: I think it was very well written and produced by Debbie Allen, Susan Fales, Cosby and Alvin F. Poussaint. They were very conscious about the impact the show would have on our community. The show had relevance and humor. It also dealt with alot of issues that would be difficult to talk about if it had not been for the show, like date rape. That’s an odd thing to bring up to your little girl when she hasn’t even kissed yet. Also, episodes like the riot show and the Mammy Dearest episode gave families a way to address these big issues with young people.

Tammy: Can you share some insights about a particular scene on A Different World when Denzel Washington surprised you on set. How was that experience for you?

Jasmine: Well, I need to reference it, in my defense. We usually did not do more than one take. We got to a point where Debbie had us from a five day week to a four day week and we did the show in its entirety. We kind of ran it like a broadway show, in real time, because we had a studio audience. So whenever we had to stop, it was unusual.

The set up was that Whitley thinks everybody forgot her birthday. So she gets drunk and starts talking to Denzel’s picture. The first time we did it, the audience loved it! Dawnn Lewis taps me on the shoulder and the girls are there for a haha you’re busted moment. After that, I go to change and the stage manager tells me that we have to do it again. I asked why and was told it was because of the lighting. I thought to myself, we don’t usually change our lighting, I didn’t know what was going on. Also, I knew the second time wouldn’t be as funny because the studio audience had already seen it.

The second time around, I really laid into the drunk thing, swerving all around and saying Denzel! Denzel! The more I did it, the audience laughed and loved it more. I didn’t know the man was walking into my room. I was expecting to see Dawnn again, but Denzel tapped me. It scared me, I thought I was seeing a ghost. I thought I had concentrated on his picture too much that I was actually seeing him. I told Denzel I had always wanted to work with him, but not like this. I was so embarrassed and I freaked out! Debbie got me good that day!

Tammy: This year celebrates 35 years of Harlem Nights. After 35 years are there any stories you haven’t shared yet from that experience?

Jasmine: When I came to work I just worked on my scenes. Most of my scenes were with Eddie which was great! But I was like, I’m in a movie with Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx, and Della Reese and I’m not going to see them? So, I came on a day when I wasn’t filming just so I could meet those three. Richard Pryor wasn’t available, but Redd Foxx and Della Reese were in their trailer with the door open just laughing and talking. I popped my head in and asked if I could sit with them. I just wanted to hear them hanging out, it was fun! I enjoyed doing that movie and it was so beautifully done. The costumes, the sets, and just being on the Paramount lot was a great experience. I had a really great time.

Tammy: How did Afeni Shakur: Evolution of a Revolutionary Book by Jasmine Guy come about and why was it important for you to have this literary piece a part of your legacy?

Jasmine: I met Afeni through Tupac and we would just be talking all the time, late at night. I told her about the speaking engagements that I do, how she could do them as well and how we could structure it. At that time, I felt people didn’t know her story and she was so eloquent. In convincing her to consider it, I started tapping our talks. I envisioned a movie at first about her years as a Panther. She wanted to go beyond her Panther years. She wanted to talk about her recovery and share her stories about helping other women like her. Pac pitched it to a movie company before he died, he was going to be a part of helping us do it. I said that this should be a book because it’s too much to put into a movie. When he died, it was so much on Afeni. She had so many court cases and so much to deal with. I put up all of my research materials in the garage and seven years later she said, “I’m ready to write that book now.”

I then re-interviewed her because there was a seven year gap. I realized in the second set of interviews that Afeni was different from the first. I said, that’s not what you told me happened the first time and I would tell her the other version. And she said, “Well I don’t feel like that anymore. I’m not as angry.” That’s why I called it the Evolution of a Revolutionary. I didn’t expect to write it, but Afeni didn’t want to talk to anybody else. Afeni knew that I had all of the story and notes. I called my mom who is a great writer and english teacher and told her that I would take on this project if she edited it for me. I knew that my mom wouldn’t let me slide and be like, oh that good, for an actor. She would make me write to the best of my ability. 

I was terrified and didn’t want that kind of a responsibility, but it’s been a wonderful journey with that book. Especially interviewing Afeni, touring with her and speaking at universities. I am so grateful for that experience. 

Tammy: What makes Jasmine Guy happy?

Jasmine: I love working, I love the creative process of everyone getting together and putting on a show. I love being with my friends in small groups of close people where we can talk in person. After Covid, we had to get used to being back in each other’s houses. I missed having people over and cooking for them. 

I love seeing my kid now that she doesn’t live with me anymore. Even if we don’t do anything but watch TV together, I’m so happy to see her. Good fun, good stories, and safe places to be and lay my head, those are all the things that make me happy.

Tammy: Looking ahead, what goals or aspirations do you have for the next chapter of your career? Are there any upcoming projects or roles that you are particularly excited about and would like to share with your fans?

Jasmine: I have a couple of projects that were put on hold because of the strike. The minute we started working again after Covid, then here came the strike. One of the projects I was excited about is a directing job for a ten episode Black-female driven sci-fi series. The other is a movie about a little boy that wants to be a dancer with Alvin Ailey and I am his dancer teacher. I really want to do that, I’ve never played a dance teacher.

Tammy: What advice would you give to aspiring actors and creatives who are navigating their way through the ever changing entertainment industry?

Jasmine: I think these kids are more savvy with social media, marketing, promoting and getting their name out there. I just hope that whatever craft that it is, they study and have some kind of technique. If you’re interested in being a sound engineer, go learn your craft. Of course dancers have to take classes, but a lot of actors believe that they have a natural ability, but it’s still important to take class and to do plays to strengthen that instrument. That’s what gets you through eight shows a week. When you’re tired and nervous or not having a good day, you’ll fall back on your technique. 

Singers say the same thing too because you don’t always sound the same, especially when you’re doing a show every night. So you have to find other ways to build. That comes from learning, doing and experiencing. Find a class or technical situation to support your natural ability.

Tammy: Congratulations again! Thank you for your time and winning for us all!

Jasmine: Thank you for having me and have a beautiful day!

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