Filed under: It’s All Reel, Entertainment
When casting began for ‘Notorious,‘ the story of Christopher “Biggie Smalls” Wallace, many newcomers tried out for the coveted roles of Biggie, Puff Daddy, Lil’ Kim and Faith Evans. When selecting an actress to play the role of Faith, filmmakers were looking for someone who could sing and look glamorous.
For Antonique Smith, the spot was hers to lose. Not only does she look like Faith, she can sing as well, having played the part of Mimi in the Broadway show ‘Rent.’ Acting on stage is one thing, but to be on the big screen, you have to be ready, and Smith is definitely prepared.
Over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, ‘Notorious’ scored big at the box office, grossing $24 million. In my conversation with Smith, she spoke about the process of being cast, working with Faith, and being ready for the Hollywood spotlight.
How did this role come about for you?
Antonique Smith: It happened around September of 2007. I don’t think I heard about it too far in advance. It was more like ‘They are doing a movie about Biggie, and you are being mentioned about playing Faith.’ Instantly, I was like, ‘Oh my God! That’s my role.’ I don’t know why I thought that. Maybe it was a spirit, but I thought that was my role.
Who told you about the film?
AS: My agent.
Has anyone ever told you that you looked like Faith?
AS: Not really. I didn’t really get that. I knew that we’re both fair-skinned, and we both can sing, basic things that would at least give me a good chance of getting the role.
Did you do anything special for the audition?
AS: I did. I had seen some of Faith’s videos, and I was going to do something like her, like laugh and sing like her. I saw one video where she was in the studio and she had a juicy sweat suit. I didn’t have one, so I just threw on a funky looking green sweat suit. Not very flattering, but it was all I had. I didn’t want to wear a blonde wig and be distracting. I didn’t want to jinx it. I went in with my hair in a bun and had minimal makeup on because Faith is very pale. So I did all these things and walked in and heard someone say ‘that’s Faith’. Everyone in the room who knew Faith personally and has seen her at home and in the studio with her bun and her sweat suit thought that I looked like her. Good. I accomplished that part. Then I got a call from the wonderful Twinkie, the casting director, who said that I needed to come back with my hair down, and put some makeup on, some tight jeans and a bright-colored shirt and some heels, and not to come in looking like I did before. Then I thought that I didn’t do the right thing. They wanted to see a different look. They wanted to see the glamour side of Faith. Thankfully, I was able to pull that off. I did the chemistry test with Jamal and the rest is history.
What was that first conversation with Faith like?
AS: Actually, I had met her previously, around 1996, when Biggie was still alive. She had written a song for me, but I didn’t really know her. We didn’t ever sit and talk. She was quiet. The only times I saw her were at a couple of industry parties. She didn’t say much, so I never got to know her. But the first conversation we had she remembered me. That was the icebreaker. She said that a few names were being tossed at her as to who would play her, but when she heard my name, she thought I was perfect.
After doing theater and being on Broadway, are you ready for the film world?
AS: I’m ready. I’m so in love with the entire process. When I wasn’t shooting, I was literally asking people what they were doing. I was interested in the entire process from beginning to end. Coming from Broadway, it’s more of a team effort, but in movies, they don’t want to you to comment on anything. That’s for the director and producers to do. I had to learn that. It was pretty much a crash course, and I learned the dos and the don’ts in the first week.
How was working with Angela Bassett?
AS: It was wonderful. There is a scene that made me cry. It’s the scene where Violetta Wallace is in the limo crying and she flashes back to us, me and Biggie, in the house with the baby. That was the scene that I got to work with her on, and she was so sweet. When we each had a break, we sat and spoke, and after about 10 minutes, I said to myself, ‘She’s still talking to me.’
Now that the film is out, are you ready for the spotlight?
AS: I am so ready. I have been waiting for this since I was 3. I have been dreaming and working for this since I was in my teens, but wanting it since I was 3. I remembered saying ‘I want to be a star,’ but I didn’t know what that meant. I’m finally here, and I’m so grateful and so thankful. I’m not overwhelmed, but it’s really moving now that it’s here. I have my team together. I’m working on my album, which should be coming out in the spring of next year.
What sort of music will you be singing?
AS: I don’t want to spoil it, but it will be like a fusion. I listen to hip-hop. I listen to soul music. I love Aretha Franklin. I love Celine Dion, Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. I also listen to Rock & Roll.
What do you want your day job to be, singer or actress?
AS: Do I have to choose? I would love to do both. Right now, my day has been acting. I was on Broadway, and all my checks have been for acting. It’s been what has catapulted me to where I am now.
What are we going to learn about Faith after watching the movie?
AS: I think people don’t know how much she really loved Big. She talked a little bit about him in her memoirs, and I got that from reading articles. Her introduction to us was through him. I could see why people might think that she must have married him for money, not knowing that she had more money than he did when they met, and that he wasn’t famous yet when they met. They really loved each other.
Antonique Smith, who plays Faith Evans, alongside Jamal Woolard, who’s Biggie Smalls. Photo taken at the afterparty for the premiere of ‘Notorious’ at Roseland Ballroom in New York City on January 7, 2009.
Notorious signs were layed throughout the Roseland area along with posters of the Notorious B.I.G.
Anthony Mackie, who recently was seen in ‘Eagle Eye’, play Tupac Shukur and Antonique Smith, who plays Faith Evans in the film. Photo taken at the afterparty for the premiere of ‘Notorious’ at Roseland Ballroom in New York City on January 7, 2009.
Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs met his mother Janice Combs at the afterparty for the premiere of ‘Notorious’ at Roseland Ballroom in New York City on January 7, 2009.
Record producer Kedar Massenburg came to the afterparty for the premiere of ‘Notorious’ at Roseland Ballroom in New York City on January 7, 2009.
Don’t they look alike? Faith Evans and Antonique Smith. Photo taken at the afterparty for the premiere of ‘Notorious’ at Roseland Ballroom in New York City on January 7, 2009.
Andre Royo,who was memorable for his role in HBO’s The Wire, and friend had a blast at the afterparty for the premiere of ‘Notorious’ at Roseland Ballroom in New York City on January 7, 2009.
Angela Bassett had a wonderful time playing Violetta Wallace, Christopher’s mother. Photo taken at the afterparty for the premiere of ‘Notorious’ at Roseland Ballroom in New York City on January 7, 2009.
Marc John Jefferies enjoyed playing and hanging out with
Lil Cease at the afterparty for the premiere of ‘Notorious’ at Roseland Ballroom in New York City on January 7, 2009.
Angela Bassett who plays Violetta Wallace and Naturi Naughton, who plays Lil’ Kim. Photo taken at the afterparty for the premiere of ‘Notorious’ at Roseland Ballroom in New York City on January 7, 2009.
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