Most of us know and recognize Tasha Smith, the actress. We see her face in that memeable scene from Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married? when her bob swings in tune with her “trigger fingers” as she delivers that punctuated “Boom!” at the dinner table.

But over the past six years, Smith’s been building her portfolio as a director. In some ways, this next phase in her career evolution isn’t far from the girl who directed her own twin sister, Sidra Smith, while playing make believe during their childhood. “You’re Chaka Khan, I’m Diana Ross,” Smith recalls saying as she imitates her younger self in a conversation with ESSENCE. 

Smith was always dreaming of telling a story, a passion and gift she says could have only come from God. As she grew and matured, the desire never left her. “I realized that dream wasn’t a figment of my imagination, it was God really saying, ‘This is what I got for you, girl.’”

During the first half of the pandemic when most of us spent the majority of our days at home, Smith had the chance to think, pray and get clear about that aspect of her gift. She emerged from quarantine with a challenge to herself. 

“I said I’m going to take off from acting for at least a year,” Smith recalls. “I thought, I know the actor is okay. Let me sow a little more into the director.” 

Smith set a goal of directing a pilot and ended up directing two. Included in her growing list of television director credits is her work on Our Kind of People, Big Sky,  9-1-1, Black Lighting, STAR, P-Valley, and Black Mafia Family, which she also executive produces. Smith will also direct for the upcoming Fresh Prince reboot, Bel-Air. 

Smith partially credits her nearly 20-year tenure teaching acting skills through her celebrity endorsed Tasha Smith Actors Workshop (TSAW) as the vehicle that made her transition from actor to director so seamless. 

“When you’re teaching acting, you’re directing, you’re telling stories, you’re creating characters, you’re doing all that,” Smith says.

Still, stepping behind the camera, she had to overcome some internal conflict.

“It was a lot of fear and a lot of insecurity that I still have,” Smith admits  “I’m still learning and I’m still growing–even as an actor.”

There were also technical aspects of the job–like the different types of lenses–she had to learn. But her strategy, she shares, was not to pretend to know it all. 

“I depend on my crew, my cinematographer, my key grip, my gaffer, my camera department. It’s a collective group of minds that make it great. When you go in embracing your insecurities, you are not afraid to say, ‘I need help’ or ask a question.”

In addition to relying on others, Smith also engaged did some old fashioned research to get ready for this new role. 

“I studied hard. I prepped hard,” Smith says. “Even as an actor, I don’t look at myself as if I’m the best of the best. I know I’m very good at what I do. But it doesn’t come without hard work and a process. I’ve become a student of the craft. Whether it’s directing or acting. Mentorship, learning, studying, researching, reading, asking questions.”

Her hard work just so happened to align with a particularly rich time in entertainment history as Hollywood is invested in telling more Black stories than ever before. 

“Hollywood, like the world, like America, had a wake up call,” Smith says. “I think people had some strong convictions. They saw mistakes that they may have made in the way they did things. They realized how much lack of opportunity there had been for people in this industry of color and of different genders. I think that wake up call and those convictions created an opportunity for us.”

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