Antonique Smith is a sucker for love. After singing songs of devotion as Mimi in “Rent,” the Broadway beauty found herself captivated by Faith Evans and Christopher “The Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace’s love story in “Notorious.” But playing the blonde-haired songstress on the big screen wasn’t all hugs and kisses for Smith, who found herself kicking girls’ butts and reliving Faith’s pain caused by rumors of an affair with Tupac. Smith spoke with ESSENCE.com about how the film changed her opinion of Faith, what surprised her about working with Angela Bassett, and why she could see herself falling for a guy like Biggie.
ESSENCE.COM: The film has finally arrived. After reading the script, what surprised you about Faith that you didn’t know before?
ANTONIQUE SMITH: I didn’t know that there were rumors that she married him for all the wrong reasons and that she married for money and fame. But the truth was she had more money than him at the beginning, so that rumor doesn’t even make sense. She had her own place and a car. He ain’t have a car. (Laughs.) I wanted to dispel that rumor. She fell in love with him because he was charming and funny, and charismatic. He had an innocence. They really loved each other.
ESSENCE.COM: Was it hard to capture the innocence of the beginning of their relationship, knowing how it would end?
SMITH: I think that was the easy part. The innocence was easier because that probably came out of me, and I’m closer to that side of her. I’m attracted to innocence too so I could see what she saw in him. The gangster part was what I had to sink my teeth into. And I had so much fun beating up people because I never have done that. What I didn’t know was that they were trying to get back together before he died. At the beginning of the movie they play an interview that was right before his death, and they asked where he saw himself in ten years and he said with his wife. He wanted to be with his wife, Faith.
ESSENCE.COM: That’s real. And how did Faith help you prepare for playing her on-screen, and was meeting her what you expected?
SMITH: She’s quiet and shy. I didn’t know where she stood on some things, like Kim, so it was cool to see how that all played out in the script. We talked on the phone and she let me read her memoir before it was released. For her to actually let me see the book before it came out was so much trust and it helped when I couldn’t talk to her. You also see that people are human and stars have pain too. I felt more for her than I ever did [during the scenes of a rumored affair with Tupac]. I found out from the book she thought she and Biggie had more time to mature a little bit and get back together. That’s what makes it so devastating.
ESSENCE.COM: Did Angela Bassett offer any pearls of wisdom?
SMITH: No, she was just wanting to be cool. We talked, and I was sitting there wondering when she was going to move on, but she was still sitting there and I’m like, Oh my God, it’s ten minutes and she’s still talking to me. She was wonderful. Derek Luke had more words of wisdom and we’re from the same area. I had so many incredible people around me and the director George Tillman did an amazing job.
ESSENCE.COM: For you, what was the toughest scene for you to film?
SMITH: Well, the drama came easy. The very first time they meet at the photo shoot and I’m supposed to be distracted was a little difficult. Faith was a little concerned with some of the lines and said, “I wasn’t mean to him when we first met. He was nice and he looked at my pictures.” So what really happened was slightly different, but if we started with “Hi, Biggie, how ya doing,” then it would have been no change in scene. So I had to be a little standoffish which she didn’t want, but that was a losing battle. No movie is exactly like the real thing. But a lot of it is very true and very realistic. It is an incredible movie.
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