Tatyana Ali Talks 'Love That Girl,' Her First Sitcom Since 'Fresh Prince'
By Zach Dionne Posted Jan 10th 2011 02:52PM
'Love That Girl' is a big deal for the 31-year-old actress, marking her first sitcom since 'Fresh Prince' and network TV One's first original scripted program. With executive producers Martin Lawrence, Grammy-winner Raphael Saadiq, 'Full House' creator Jeff Franklin and 'Jamie Foxx' show-runner Bentley Kyle Evans, Ali's ensemble comedy has odds stacked in its favor.
Ali spoke with PopEater about life since 'Fresh Prince,' stepping back onto a TV set, the pressure of being the girl on 'Love That Girl' and how much she loves former co-star Will Smith's daughter Willow and her jam 'Whip My Hair.'
What can you tell us about 'Love That Girl'?
My character, Tyana Jones, got married young. She's divorced now but still pretty young, and she decides to move back to LA to start her life over and sort of become independent for the first time, figure out who she is. She's foiled by her brother Latrell, played by Alphonso McAuley, an amazing comedian. He's an out-of-work stand-up comic; he asks if he can sleep on her couch, and he doesn't leave. She also ends up working for her father in a real estate firm. You see her trials and tribulations of figuring out who she is, dating, the difference between wrong and right, and you have a conflict between her family and her friends. But at the end of the day, they always have each other. They stick together.
What attracted you to the show? It's been such a long time since you were on TV.
I really loved what the creator, Bentley Evans, was trying to do. I thought it was really smart and cool. I also loved that he had never done a female-driven show before. I love the character -- I haven't seen anybody like her, especially on a sitcom, in a while. She's strong, but she's still fragile. Sometimes she's a grown, independent woman, but sometimes she's just a girl. She fights really hard for what she believes in, she has a lot of integrity, but sometimes she's totally confused. She actually fights when she's confused, which I think is most assuring about her. [laughs]
What's it like being back on a TV set?
I feel more pressure than I've ever felt before because I'm the girl in 'That Girl,' but it's very much an ensemble. Everybody involved in it -- all the writers, the crew, the cameramen -- they're all seasoned, real professionals. It's been amazing. We ad lib a lot on set. We laugh a lot.
Will people tuning in for the 'Fresh Prince' factor be into this?
I definitely think so. They might tune in for the Martin Lawrence factor, or for Bentley's Jamie Foxx ties -- but people tuning in are gonna laugh. It's a really funny show and it has a lot of heart. It's really creative. The characters are pretty special; I don't think they're characters we've seen before.
Is the goal to top 'Fresh Prince' in some sense?
To top it? No. 'Fresh Prince' has become so iconic. It's such a part of American history almost, in people's lives, people growing up with the show. I know that sounds crazy, but ...
Not at all. You're speaking to someone you just described.
Right. I'm blessed because I did 'Fresh Prince' when I was young, and I'm still young and I can do more things. It's not so much topping 'Fresh Prince' as personally, as a performer, I don't feel like I've reached the best of what I can do. I still think I can do more. That's what I want to top.
What's the 'Fresh Prince' legacy on your life?
It's amazing. People recognize me wherever I am -- I think it's because I look very similar to when I was younger. That could be a negative thing, but on the other hand, people treat me with so much love and affection because of the character and because they love her and loved the show. I really do believe that if I was destitute, if something happened and I was on the corner somewhere, I think someone would give me a sandwich. It's the amount of love ... it's really genuine, and it's really amazing.
Can we expect more music from you someday? Your album 'Kiss the Sky' was a big hit back in the late '90s.
Yes, I hope so. I'm working on that now and figuring it out, trying out some different sounds. I love singing. I want to say expect something. It's been a really, really long time. It's kind of scary to do something you've been away from for so long -- are people gonna care, is it gonna matter? But my best girlfriend sent me a YouTube clip of a young girl, probably 16 or 17; her friend's in the front seat doing beatbox, and her other friend's in the backseat with a guitar, and they're doing 'Daydreamin.' It made me cry!
See the clip:
What's new in your non-Hollywood life? Seeing anyone? Any exciting news lately?
Oh, what's going on with that. That is ... what's the Facebook choice you could write? It's complicated. You could put that. I'm happy. Everything is good. I can't announce "I'm engaged, I'm getting married!" But yeah, I'm happy.
Last thing -- what do you think of Will Smith's daughter Willow and her song 'Whip My Hair'?
I knew that she was singing; Will told me about it. Then 'Whip My Hair' was my anthem when it came out, for a long while. I'm a huge Willow Smith fan -- I think she's amazing. When I first heard the single, my jaw just dropped. First of all, she sounds amazing. She looks -- she is -- a rock star, but she was a rock star at birth, anyway. The other thing that makes me really proud, even though I had nothing to do with it, is that her song is so empowering. I mean, how old am I, and I'm like, "Yeah, I wanna whip my hair!" I love that it's so positive and cool and showing little girls what strength is. That's amazing.
'Love That Girl' airs on TV One on Mondays starting tonight, Jan. 10, at 9PM EST. See a clip:
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