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Interview: Naturi Naughton Talks 'Power', Starring in Regina King's Directorial Debut, Desires to Play Patti LaBelle, and More

Photo of Jai Tiggett By Jai Tiggett | Shadow and Act April 22, 2014 at 1:06PM

In the upcoming Starz drama Power, Naturi Naughton co-stars as the wife of Ghost (Omari Hardwick), a New York nightclub owner living a double life as a drug kingpin. Created by 50 Cent, the series is set to premiere this summer.
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Naturi Naughton
Naturi Naughton

In the upcoming Starz drama Power, Naturi Naughton co-stars as the wife of Ghost (Omari Hardwick), a New York nightclub owner living a double life as a drug kingpin. Created by 50 Cent, the series is set to premiere this summer.  

Naughton has starred in a string of film and television projects since starting her career as a teenage member of R&B group 3LW in the early 2000s, and most notably appeared as Lil Kim in the Notorious BIG biopic Notorious. This fall, she'll star in BET's original movie Let the Church Say Amen, the directorial debut for Regina King.

The actress recently spoke with Shadow And Act about her new projects and what we can look forward to seeing from her next.

JAI TIGGETT: What can you share about your character in Power?

NATURI NAUGHTON: Tasha St. Patrick, she's crazy. She really is Ghost's sidekick, the other half of Bonnie and Clyde. She came up from the streets, grew up in Queens, and had a rough life. She had desires to be a singer but those desires got cut short because she was pregnant at 19 with Ghost's child. He's trying to choose between going legit and staying in the drug game, and she’s pretty much the woman who's like look, we've built this empire together, I'll ride with you to the end. She'll throw the gun away, she'll tell you how to dump the body. She's an edgy character and not afraid to do whatever it takes to keep the family together.

JT: How has it been co-starring with Omari Hardwick as a love interest and a partner?

NN: Omari's been great. We were friends in the industry before Power. He actually helped give me the Rising Star Award at PVIFF, and we did a panel together. So we've always respected each other's work, and finally here we are. He's a big brother to me on set in a way, even though he plays my husband. We trust each other and tell each other like it is. Having him as a partner as the power couple of the show has been amazing.

JT: What about working with 50 Cent? As someone who's been a musical artist, and also acted and moved on to other things, has he shared any advice with you about his career path?

NN: Oh my gosh, he's a joy and just full of life. He brings a very grounded, real side to the production. One day we were getting hair and makeup touched up and he was saying don't ever underestimate what you can do. Because he was talking about different ventures of his and where he came from, just the come-up for him and his journey. He just said don't sell yourself short, think outside the box.

I was telling him one of my aspirations is to direct as well. I love to write, music and poetry. So I think from watching his versatility and listening to his ability to see things in that way, it taught me that no matter where you're from, no matter what people say you can do, you can achieve your dreams as long as you think outside the box, do the work and be willing to move forward.

JT: A lot of people remember you from 3LW, which had a pretty highly publicized breakup. What was it like coming out of that experience and transitioning into acting?

NN: I was working for about three years on the show Hairspray on Broadway, which helped me transition into acting because it's musical theater, where I'm singing and dancing and acting and learning how to think on my feet. When I booked Hairspray I really didn't have a support system other than my family and friends. So after 3LW, doing Hairspray really launched me into a position in New York where I was getting recognized and then got an agent. And then I booked Notorious as well, while I was doing the show.

I just feel really blessed because it's not easy to do what I've done. There's a lot of people who would love to be able to have a balance of both. But it wasn't easy. For my first role, I had to audition five times. I've gotten a lot of no’s and rejections. But I just had to keep working hard. I took classes, I worked on my craft and continued to work with an acting coach and just didn't give up on myself.

"There are a lot of things that I really wanted to be a part of... but I wasn't the specific look of what's 'beautiful' or 'exotic' or 'ethnically ambiguous.' I'm a black woman, undeniably."

JT: Most of your acting roles have involved music. Do you plan to work as a recording artist again at some point? 

NN: I would love to. I still get a chance to dabble in the studio. In Power, I recorded a song and I'm singing in one of the episodes later in the season. 50 Cent and Courtney Kemp Agboh, our showrunner, were really supportive of using my voice and letting me use both of my talents.

I'm not a huge fan of the way the music business is right now, so I'm not jumping at that. I enjoy singing in projects but I'm just taking my time. If I am doing music it's got to be right. I told 50, hey let's do this. I'd love to work with him as well.

JT: After having been a singer as a teen, what kind of music do you see yourself making now?

NN: I want to do music that matters to me, that’s relevant to people who are in my age group, 20s and 30s. I would probably be very R&B, like Alicia Keys mixed with stuff that Beyonce does mixed with old-school. I love Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle and The Supremes, because I'm kind of old-school at heart. Whether it's popular or not is up to the people, but if it's good music at least that's something I can be proud of.

JT: You mentioned that you want to direct. Do you have any directing projects in the works that we should know about?

NN: I haven't directed yet. But one actress that I'm really inspired by in her directorial debut, is Regina King and Let The Church Say Amen. I shadowed her and watched her because she knows my desire to do other things. She was so giving in letting me ask questions about what it takes to be a director, and so I was really honored to work with Regina in that way.

JT: And you star in that project as well.

NN: The character that I play is one of the central characters in the book Let The Church Say Amen, Rachel. She's a little ratchet, a girl from ATL. She has a child and is definitely struggling from being a girl from the church and trying to be a woman of the world. And I think you can't do both. Having a family from the church and the pressures and dysfunction within that are hard for my character. She rebels, but eventually she realizes that her foundation is always going to be there.

JT: What else are you looking to do as an actress, that you haven't had a chance at yet?

NN: I would love to play Patti LaBelle. Her voice, her journey, her longevity in the business - I really love her and I think she's such an amazing force of nature. A lot of people don't talk about her journey. And then I was obsessed with things like Roots as a little girl, and I know they're redoing that. I was obsessed with Love Jones growing up, so if they ever do anything like it again. I always wanted to [star in] a really poetic love affair. That's a fantasy of mine. I really was inspired by that movie and it changed me as a woman, not just as an actress.

JT: At this point in your career, are you frequently being offered projects that you're excited about?

NN: It's a little bit challenging I think, to find quality material. I definitely want to make sure that my next project is something I'm perfect for and passionate about, that allows me to showcase what I can do as an actress. I’m not in a position of trying to complain about what isn’t. I'm really focusing on how grateful I am for what is. I'm just really fortunate and hopeful. There are a lot of reflections of beauty as black women, and that hasn't always been the case.

Even in my journey, there are a lot of things that I really wanted to be a part of, or desperately thought I was right for, but I wasn't the specific look of what's "beautiful" or "exotic" or "ethnically ambiguous". I'm a black woman, undeniably. So sometimes it's challenging, but I have a really great support group. My parents have encouraged me. I talk to Regina King, Hosea Chanchez who's also in Let The Church with me, I talk to Omari Hardwick. We continue to lift each other up when we're feeling knocked down by the business. At the end of the day, you just have to focus on doing good work. 

This article is related to: Naturi Naughton, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, Regina King, Omari Hardwick


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