Actress Tika Sumpter has had a great year. Between her part (albeit super-brief) in the summer’s most talked about biopic Get On Up, to her major role in Ride Along and her regular work on Tyler Perry’s The Haves and Have Nots, Sumpter has made a name for herself in Hollywood.
Just in time for the holidays, last year’s A Madea Christmas is now available on Blu-ray and DVD. The 34-year-old Queens, New York native chatted with EBONY about the fun behind making that film, what real life stories she’d like to see on the big screen, and the new projects she has coming up—which include playing a lover to Bessie Smith in an upcoming HBO biopic.
EBONY: The theater version of A Madea Christmas showed a few outtakes at the end. Will the DVD have more? With that hilarious cast, I’m sure there must have been a million takes that didn’t make the final cut.
Tika Sumpter: Oh, yeah. Tyler Perry likes to ad lib. Then you have Kathryn Najimy, who is hilarious, and of course Larry the Cable Guy. All I had to do was sit back and laugh and let them handle the funny stuff. I know my lane very well. I am fine with sitting back and learning about timing and rhythm. I have no problem or ego with sitting and learning. I just laughed most of the time. It was a pleasure and an honor to be part of that film. Also, I just really loved this film. There was no taking clothes off, nothing’s happening that’s crazy. I can sit with my niece and watch this.
EBONY: Speaking of family time, do you have any holiday traditions that are near and dear to you?
TS: I absolutely love the holidays! I love my family, I love my friends. I’m just glad to get a break from everything, really. I love everything from putting up the tree and the cooking for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s nice to be able to share the ups and downs from the year with family.
EBONY: You mentioned cooking. Can you burn? What do you like to make for the holidays?
TS: Can I cook? Girl, yes! But I’m fortunate to have my mother still around, and she basically does all of the cooking. I just sit around and cut up and hang out with the family.
EBONY: What’s your most memorable holiday moment?
TS: My mom was a single mom in Queens. We had this huge Christmas tree with the lights and everything. I’d leave cookies and milk out the night before, and in the morning, there’d be a bite out of the cookie and the milk would be gone. I had this amazing spread of every toy. Now knowing how hard that must have been to pull that off as a single mom, I’m really in awe of her and how she managed to provide all of that.
EBONY: You mentioned sharing ups and downs of the year. This past year has been great for you with multiple film and television roles.
TS: I just feel like whether it’s the small film with a big role or a big film with a small role, every part flows into your next thing. I just love working with great people and I’ve been able to work with some really cool directors. I’ve been working in every way that I can. I want to learn the business from the best people and create my own projects.
EBONY: Do you have any behind-the-camera projects coming up?
TS: I do and I’m so excited! I just did my first film project. I’m a producer and I’m also in it. It’s a great love story. I can’t say too much about it yet, but hopefully I’ll be able to say more about it before the year is out once a few more things are in place. I’m really proud of this because I was a force in getting it made and I think as actors we should be doing more of that. We should have some sort of hand in our destiny and not just wait for other people to give us roles. I’m glad I was able to make it happen and I’m excited to open doors for other people.
EBONY: Tell me about your role in the upcoming Bessie Smith project.
TS: My character is a dancer and seamstress who is one of Bessie Smith’s lovers. The fans will get to see a different side of me. Dee Rees, who did Pariah, directed this. She is just really great with actors and it was great to work with HBO. It’s a fantastic script and it was a pleasure to work with Queen Latifah and Michael K. Williams. I’m really happy for Queen Latifah. I don’t think people have seen her like this, and Bessie Smith’s story is one that I think can really inspire people. It’s all about creating your own way and making different choices. Doing this project wasn’t work. It was absolutely fun from beginning to end.
EBONY: You have a couple biopics under your belt now. You have Get On Up, which, by the way, I wanted to see more of your character.
TS: Me too! I wanted you to see more of my character too. But it’s a PG-13 film and even though my additional scenes were poignant, they definitely would have pushed it beyond PG-13. It’s all good though. It was a great film and I was honored to be a part of it.
EBONY: So you have James Brown and Bessie Smith projects done. Are there any biopics you’d like to be a part of, whether in front of or behind the camera?
TS: I would love to see Whitney Houston on the big screen. I know the Lifetime movie is in the works and I’m really happy for Yaya [DaCosta], but Whitney Houston’s life was so big. There’s so much about her story before she became famous. Her life was so much more than what we saw at the end. She had a big life and I think it should be on the big screen. I would love to see Hattie McDaniel’s story too. Gosh, who else? There are so many stories that should be told. Emmett Till’s mother would be another one. There’s so much more there in that story that has yet to be told, and I think it would be powerful to see things from her perspective and everything she went through.