Taral Hicks: From The Belly of the Beast
In 1993 the film A Bronx Tale was released chronicling the life of a young Italian Boy growing up in 1960s Brooklyn. The film finds the main character having to make choices in life despite the feelings of the community surrounding him. Should he join the mob and live a life of violence? Should he continue an interracial relationship in the face of a community that did not approve? The film was Robert Dineros directorial debut and received critical acclaim. However, the director was not the only one debuting in the film. It was also the first major movie role for a young actress name Taral Hicks.
The young thespian went on to play in Just Cause with Sean Connery and Laurence Fishburne and eventually stared in a short for the HBO series Subway Stories. The short, directed by Spike Lee, featured Hicks singing ability and eventually led to a contract with Motown Records.
Then came the role for which Taral is widely known to many in the Hip Hop community. As Keisha, Taral captured audiences attention in the Hype Williams helmed cult classic Belly.
Taral has been steadily working on catching the audiences attention once again. She, like the main character in A Bronx Tale, is trying to make the right choices in a community that doesnt see things quite the same. She sits down with AllHipHop.com to discuss why the Hollywood Community is not pushing African American actors, her new movie, and her latest work in the music industry.
AllHipHop.com: Out of all the roles that you have played in your career what is one that truly stands out to you?
Taral Hicks: Of course I really enjoyed being apart of A Bronx Tale. One reason is that I got to work with Robert Dinero. Also I was one of the only darker females on the set and I had a prominent part in a film that dealt with some serious interracial themes. I had never really done any screen work before that movie so I think I was in awe the whole shoot. It was just awesome. After that it would have to be Subway stories because I got the opportunity to sing. I still come across people that say they were touched by the scene, and that in itself is my goal in acting. In all my work I want to be able to touch people with my work. I loved Belly because Keisha was such a challenging role for me. I was so far from the character even though I grew up in the Bronx. I came from a Christian family and that character was a challenge which helped me to gain a wider audience.
AllHipHop.com: Like fans on AllHipHop.com.
Taral Hicks: Yeah like fans on AllHipHop.com [laughs].
AllHipHop.com: You mentioned Subway Stories. That short is actually what led to your recording contract with Motown. Are you still involved with any musical projects?
Taral Hicks: Yes I am. I am still doing work but its a little different this time. Im actually working on a gospel cd which is influenced by Hip Hop and R&B. Im just trying to create inspirational music that I like with a positive message. I love the sound coming from artists like Mary Mary. Their song Its the God in Me is how I try to live my life.
AllHipHop.com: So this is going to be a Gospel album?
Taral Hicks: Inspirational Hip Hop and Gospel influence. Im sure those fans are out there. Thats the kind of music that we need right now especially with the economic times we are going through.
AllHipHop.com: Recently Nia Long made some comments about musical artists moving into the acting arena. She credited people like Jamie Fox for doing such and excellent job but also hinted at the fact that certain artists that come over do not really add to the craft. Being that you do both music and acting what is your take on artists crossing over?
Taral Hicks: You have both sides There was the late Tupac who was a Hip Hop story but also a phenomenal actor. I believe that if you can act you get the role. At the end of the day acting is something that comes from within. Some people have it and some people dont. There are Hip Hop artist out there that have it. Artists like Ludacris have it. The networks see that and grab it. Those of us that are not getting work cant discriminate because someone else got it. God has blessed some people with more than one talent and they should showcase it. Sometimes its just what happens first. Jamie always sang but the acting thing blasted off first. That happens a lot in our industry.
AllHipHop.com: Lets talk about your new movie, Disciple, which is going to start filming soon.
Taral Hicks: Well, Disciple is a psychological thriller which is very different for film these days because it stars two African American lawyers out to put away a killer. I say its different because two women of the darker shade do not usually get to play the lead in a movie. We are just really excited to put a different image out there for young black sisters. This role is my dream role. Playing a strong, high powered lawyer that is full of confidence. Plus I have the opportunity to play a mature woman. People are so use to seeing me in young girl roles that its nice to play a more adult part.
AllHipHop.com: Your co-star actually owns the production company thats bringing the movie to the public, right?
Taral Hicks: Yes. Tanya Thompson and her husband have a production company called Solar Circuit Entertainment. They are new and are looking to create some pretty exciting things in the industry. I just really wanted to be apart of this because I believe in them and think they are going to bring some quality work to the viewers.
AllHipHop.com: Youve spoken about quality roles for African Americans in the movie industry. As an individual that has been acting since the early nineties what are some of the changes you have seen for black actors, if any?
Taral Hicks: It is definitely not getting easier. There are not enough of us out there to showcase our talents as darker women. The screen continues to get lighter and lighter. Whenever we have an image out there that we can point to that image gets snatched. I would like to put an end to that. We need to let the networks know that we are beautiful, talented, and we want to work. We want an opportunity to showcase ourselves, our culture, and what we are about. It shouldnt always be about the baby momma or the girl from the hood because we are more than that. We are doctors. We are lawyers. We are owners of companies. We are pioneers and moguls and we would like to see more of that image. Dont get me wrong every shade, and I emphasize every shade, of black is beautiful, but we would like to see more of the darker shades represented. A little more Gabrielle Union. A little more Naomi Cambells in fashion. There was a period we pushed for all colors to be represented but now it looks like we are moving back in the other direction. Its going to be up to us to help those images get back out there.
AllHipHop.com: Why do you think the snatch back of black images as you said earlier occurs? Why doesnt the image you are trying to get out stay in the public?
Taral Hicks: I think its because of the people behind the projects. People will say I want to go with the Halle Berry type because thats what sells. Companies are just going with what the money man says and if they dont want certain images then the public doesnt get them. This is why Im grateful to a company like Solar Circuit because they are focused on getting our image out into the public. Thats really all I can say because in the end money talks. Money speaks. We just need more production companies that are willing to take the risk of casting darker skin women as opposed to throwing in a couple here and there.
AllHipHop.com: Now, Tyler Perry has his production company and that is pretty successful. Plus there are more movies in the straight-to-DVD category that feature black talent. What is your take on some of those films?
Taral Hicks: Doing the DVDs definitely help to keep a lot of us visual or in the public eye. One of the reasons why a lot of actors take those movies is because they need the job. But for 90% of us, this is our love. So whether it is on the DVD or the big screen we are going to continue to act because we love it. It might not be the big role that we want at that moment but it is still work. Now-a-days you have a lot of people jumping into DVD just as quick as you can blink your eye, but that has probably more to do with the economy. Networks and studios are not putting up the kind of money that they use to for certain projects because the films that are coming out are not making as much money. A lot of people dont want to push the little films because they would rather see the big action film with a big name actor. Tyler Perry has been very fortunate because he is an excellent writer, he has wonderful actors, and they put their best foot forward. Do to that he has had a lot of success. It shows that we, as fans, need to support what we want out of this industry because otherwise they will sit on us. They will ignore us. I admire Tyler Perry for putting out an image and saying this is our story and if you put it in theaters it will sell. We just want more of us to have that opportunity.