Naturi Naughton is still young, but she’s a veteran in the entertainment industry. The now 32-year-old actress, who can still pass for a teenager, was a teen when she started out in the girl group 3LW. While the trio came to a contentious end, Naughton keep going. She starred as Lil’ Kim in the Biggie biopic Notorious, onstage in Hairspray and as a Playboy bunny in the short-lived The Playboy Club series.
But it is her role as Tasha St. Patrick in the surprise hit Starz series Power that has given her some overdue name recognition. As Tasha, Naughton has brought both fierceness and vulnerability to the often stereotyped character of a drug dealer’s wife. In Season 3, as Tasha gets to stretch out beyond the boundaries of her role as James “Ghost” St. Patrick’s wife, Naughton gets to showcase her acting chops as well. We talked to her about the personal and professional power she’s achieved in her own life and why she’s never going to be BFF’s with Lil’ Kim.
Blackamericaweb.com: Power Season 3. Girl, what is going on?
Naturi Naughton: I don’t know what’s going on. I think it’s going to be a really exciting and dangerous season. Ghost is still running around with Angela, his sidepiece, and I think Tasha is really just discovering herself. She’s becoming more independent of Ghost and she’s figuring out that maybe she doesn’t need him as much as she thought she did. It’s going to be a great year. I’m excited.
I thought at first that you were miscast, but as time went on, Tasha became one of my favorite characters. Was the growth of the character what attracted you to the role?
I definitely understand how people might have been skeptical, especially because I’m younger than most of the cast on the show. But I expected this to be a grow-on-you character. When I first read a script, I thought that this character is powerful, sexy, and a little daring. She does some crazy things, but she’s badass. Courtney (Agboh, the showrunner/creator) and our writers have really created a character that grows on you. I’m glad that people gave her a chance. I’m growing as an actress, so I’m happy to play such a complex character.
How did you get the role on Power?
I [was on] a too-long hiatus. I was in L.A. and I had done a show in 2011 called The Playboy Club. That show got cancelled very quickly and I was out of work for about two years and it was not easy. I got a call from my agent and I went to audition. It really came about very normally and organically. But I felt like I had the worst audition. My papers fell out of my hand. My cell phone rang and I was so embarrassed. But Courtney was like ‘Take a deep breath, it’s all good.’ They loved me and after chemistry tests with Omari and three network tests, I got the role. I was really happy and it was one of the best moments of my career because I worked so hard for it.
You’ve been in the entertainment business for a minute. We’ve seen you grow up and we’ve seen you overcome some adversity. How have you been able to stay so positive?
I started in the business in 3LW when I was 15-years-old. What sustains me is my faith and my family. I grew up in a two-parent family, singing in the church. I remember where the gift comes from and that God put me in the position to shine and to grow and to be blessed with all this talent. So that keeps me grounded. The other thing is that I try not to let this business take over your life and take over who you are. I remember that I’m just a little Black girl out of East Orange, New Jersey with a dream, that was chosen to bring forth these great characters.
Speaking of great characters, you played Lil’ Kim in the Biggie biopic Notorious. But I understand Lil’ Kim has an issue with you because of it for some reason?
I don’t know. I just know that there was some discrepancy when I was cast. I guess she didn’t feel like I looked enough like her or, I heard, my complexion – it was disappointing, I’ll just say that. At this point, I was just hired and I hoped we could have connected and had a mutual respect but right now, I’ve just decided to let all of that go and just live my life. I’m grateful to the casting directors and to the studio for giving me a shot and I played the character as best as I could. You can’t make everybody happy.
You mentioned complexion and it seems as though that has been part of your journey as well. Do you think that that discrimination exists against dark-skinned actresses and does your work in such prominent roles help get beyond it?
When you look now, there are shows where you see Viola Davis or Kerry Washington leading the show. I’m in Power as a sexy, strong, beautiful, chocolate girl. I think it’s great to see all these different hues of Black women and also brown-skinned women, be viewed as more than just certain depictions that have been in the past. For me, the things I went through in my girl group, the things I go through as an actress everyday, maybe not having a ‘crossover’ look, or not being ethnically ambiguous – as I’ve heard that verbiage from casting directors. I’m just encouraged to be here and show other little brown girls that they can be a lead and you don’t have to look like anything else but who you are.
You have had some highlights in your career and also in your personal life. I understand you have a boyfriend and just bought a condo. Are we going to know any more about than what we know now?
Hmm, how did you know I bought a condo? (Editor’s Note: The Wendy Williams Show)
I try not to expose too many things because people do take your personal life and try to dig too deeply, which can make it messy and complicated. I am happy and yes, I did buy a condo. I’m happy to have fruitful relationships and a career, because sometimes it’s one or the other.
How do you do the social media balancing act? For celebs, it’s helpful in expanding your brand and interacting with fans, but as we have seen, it can become problematic.
Everyone’s getting married and I just saw [pictures of] Ciara and Russell. I don’t think it’s anything wrong with being proud, especially if you’re married. I don’t see me doing any of those things because some things are special and private and it’s kind of nice to have things that only you and your man know about. Social media definitely exposes a lot, but it can be damaging.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using social media to bring forth a platform or a subject the way we have with Black Lives Matter, and the way people have showcased the killings of young Black men. We have it on video. In the past, you didn’t have social media to expose certain things. I just try to be as authentic as possible, but sometimes we can overuse or obsess over it, and I’ve even gotten trapped in that myself. People are caught up in how many likes you get, but it’s a real world and a real life and sometimes, it’s just about enjoying the moment and not obsessing about what social media thinks.
(Photo: Starz, Naturi Naughton IG)