Tamara Bass: “If Not Now, When?”

Growing up, I didn’t see my story on TV or in movies. I may have seen the occasional Black face, but their stories weren’t mine. I want to bring slice of life, everyday stories that are representational of the relationships in my life to film and TV. That is why I write, direct and act. […]

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Growing up, I didn’t see my story on TV or in movies. I may have seen the occasional Black face, but their stories weren’t mine. I want to bring slice of life, everyday stories that are representational of the relationships in my life to film and TV. That is why I write, direct and act. So that my niece can flip through the channels and see herself. It’s important.

As a part of our series about Inspirational Women In Hollywood, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Tamara Bass.

Born and raised in Syracuse, New York, Tamara Bass graduated from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, CA, with a B. A. in Theater Arts and a B.A. in Communication Arts, with an emphasis in Screenwriting. She has used the skills acquired at the prestigious university to direct her first full-length play, a thesis production of “for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf,” marking its first production at Loyola Marymount University. It also signified the first time that a full length play about people of color, was performed for the university.

While still a student, Tamara began her professional career in front of the camera. The summer before her senior year, she landed the starring role in the critically acclaimed independent film “Bellyfruit,” which was met with glowing reviews, following its debut at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival. This exposure led to recurring roles on “The Fugitive,” opposite Mykelti Williamson and “Boston Public.” Guest starring roles include “Any Day Now,” “Moesha,” “Sliders,” “Haunted,” and “Cedric the Entertainer Presents.” Tamara made her studio film debut in John Singleton’s “Baby Boy,” where she portrayed “Peanut,” the mother of one of Jody’s (Tyrese Gibson) children. In addition to film and television, Tamara is an accomplished stage actress, who has appeared in productions from Los Angeles to the National Black Theater Festival, as well as the Off-Broadway premiere of “I See Fire in the Dead Man’s Eyes.”

As part of her college studies, Tamara interned at “The Steve Harvey Show” for a season and a half, soaking up as much information as possible. She made her producing debut on the award-winning short film “Redemption”, where she worked in the capacity of Associate Producer. To expand her horizons, Tamara wrote, produced and directed the short film, “Exposure,” starring Terri J. Vaughn and Malinda Williams. This film garnered a lot of attention when it made its debut at The Pan African Film Festival. It went on to screen at The Reel World Film Festival, after being solicited by their programming director. “Exposure” was also nominated for a Kodak Award at the Martha’s Vineyard African-American film Festival and premiered in New York at the Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival. Tamara also wrote, produced and directed her second short film, “Broken” starring April Lee Hernandez and Dorian Missick. She followed that effort, when she created, starred and directed, alongside business partner Meagan Good, the successful web series “All That Matters”, that launched on WorldStar Hip Hop.

Tamara’s feature film debut, “If Not Now, When?”, has been acquired by Vertical Entertainment , where it will be released January 8, 2021, after making the festival rounds. It premiered at American Black Film Festival. The film was nominated for the Jury Award for Best Narrative feature, Best Screenplay (for Tamara) and Best Director (shared with Meagan Good). It has gone on to screen at Urbanworld Film Festival, Portland Film Festival, LA Femme Film Festival , Toronto Black Film Festival. Da Bounce Urban Film Festival in Amsterdam. The film was also invited to be a part of ABFF Global Film Series in London, where the screening was sold out.

Tamara has just wrapped directing “Don’t Waste Your Pretty” for TV One, which will premiere in 2021. The film, inspired by the book of the same name, stars Keri Hilson, Deborah Joy Winans and Redaric Williams.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up in Syracuse, NY with my mom, my brother and later in life, my Bonus Dad.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was six years old and was watching The Cosby Show with my grandmother and decided that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. From there, I began studying and training, culminated with a couple of degrees from Loyola Marymount University.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I had declared to my brother, after seeing “Higher Learning” and being deeply moved by it, that I wanted to work with John Singleton. I was on my way to college and that film touched me so much. So through tears, I said to him “if I don’t do anything else, I want to work with John.” Flash forward…I got to work with John Singleton on “Baby Boy”.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I was auditioning for a film and it was my third callback for this movie. Well, when I got the callback, I was told they were switching my roles. But I had worn green, so I didn’t think to change my outfit to reflect the new character (which was the love interest rather than the drug addicted woman I had previously been reading for). I showed up to the callback still dressed for the other character. As luck would have it, or maybe it was God looking out for the newbie, I was actually given incorrect information and I was still reading for the original role. The lesson I got was 1) always double check to make sure you are given correct information and 2) still dress for the right role!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are too many to name. I have been extremely blessed to have an amazing support system who have always encouraged me and made sure I had the tools I needed. But one in particular is my best friend since I was 16 years old. Aireka Muse is a writer and has talked me off the edge, listened to me cry and celebrated every win with me as if they were her own. I think I would have quit a long time ago if it wasn’t for her unwavering belief in everything I do.

You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

My biggest advice would be to prepare yourself for a lot of no’s, but to never compromise your integrity or what makes you you, to achieve a yes. It only takes one yes to propel you to the next level. When we were trying to get the funding together for “If Not Now, When?” we heard a lot of “no’s” or “yes…with conditions” and we stuck to our guns. The result was we got to make a movie, our way without sacrificing our creative integrity.

What drives you to get up everyday and work in TV and Film? What change do you want to see in the industry going forward?

I am hugely motivated by changing the narrative for Black women. I am driven by my desire to see us play characters that are just as multi-dimensional, fully realized and realistic as others.

You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?

I just directed “Don’t Waste Your Pretty” for TV One that is due in 2021 and I’m excited about that. I also have a pilot I’m currently shopping with myself and Deborah Joy Winans that I am extremely proud of.

We are very interested in looking at diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture and our youth growing up today?

Growing up, I didn’t see my story on TV or in movies. I may have seen the occasional Black face, but their stories weren’t mine. I want to bring slice of life, everyday stories that are representational of the relationships in my life to film and TV. That is why I write, direct and act. So that my niece can flip through the channels and see herself. It’s important.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

I don’t have an answer for this as I was pretty much told everything I needed to know.

Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Please share a story for each one if you can.

I am BIG on hikes, massages, game night with friends and a good old girl’s night. When I need to converse with God, I usually do it on a hike or at the beach. I’m not a church person, but I’m deeply spiritual and these conversations are necessary for my sanity. Game nights are where my small group of friends get together and LAUGH. Half of us are super competitive, while the other half are there to laugh at us. These are needed to debrief from the stresses of work and for us to unwind. With girl’s night, we usually sit around, order food and drink a glass of wine while we discuss life, relationships and job woes. It helps to get outside perspectives, advice and much needed encouragement.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.” — It’s my daily reminder that no matter what is going on around me (especially in 2020) that I can still find peace because I still have joy. It’s helped me keep everything in perspective in 2020.

You are a person of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

If I could figure out a way to teach the world empathy, compassion and consideration, it would help toward steps of healing all that is wrong. I believe the root of most troubles is a lack of at least one of those things.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

Regina King. I admire everything she does and the way that she still manages to be her, full of integrity and walking firmly in her purpose.

Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?

I am on Twitter and Instagram at @mizztamarabass

This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

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