There’s an old saying stating that experience is the best teacher. If that is the case, being introduced to the motherhood fraternity will only serve to enhance the already radiant resume of actress Jazsmin Lewis.
For Lewis, it used to be career first and then everything else. Now with a young son and a husband, things have changed a bit for the bronze starlet from Cleveland, Ohio.
“Before I had my son, it was all about my career,” Lewis said. “That’s all I cared about. And now it’s really nice to have another full-time focus…off of me. I appreciate my career. Sometimes it ‘s great…he has become my first priority, even over my career. It kind of made working easier because I was able to maybe sometimes say no.”
Lewis has already been around the block or two since kick starting her television and film career with a guest appearance in the hit comedy show “Martin” in 1994.
Since then, Lewis has been quite the busy acting bee, earning face time in “Family Matters,” “Malcolm & Eddie,” “The Wayans Bros.,” “How To Be A Player,” “Moesha,” and “Deliver Us from Eva,” among the many acting gigs she has been able to land.
She has three films in post-production, including “For the Love of Christmas,” has another in pre-production, completed the movie “Busted,” and is currently on set filming “Pantheress.”
Yeah, it sounds and looks like Lewis is doing a lot of kicking tail and taking names with her thespian chops.
What Lewis is doing is almost a major achievement itself when you consider the amount of roles dished out to African American actresses these days.
“We just don’t have Halle Berry,” Lewis said. “At one point that is all we had. Look at Taraji. Taraji is killing the game. We have Viola Davis, thank God. We have people like that. I think that we’re doing better now. I think that we were doing great back in the 19 [90s] when we had TV all over the place, we were everywhere represented, and then it got bad. We were so underrepresented. I almost forgot that we existed.
“I think that because women are taking on a more…especially women of color, are taking on more directing, producing and writing ourselves, and putting ourselves in projects…the fact we’re out there trying and continue to evolve and grow as artists, I think we are actually on the upswing. I think it’s actually getting better.”
Somehow, Lewis has been able to line up one job after another. That only can mean one thing: don’t sleep on her. Versatility is one of Lewis’ strengths.
Looking at the roles she has played in the past, Lewis can be tough as nails when she needs to be, sarcastically humorous and sexy, all at the same time. But it’s her role as Jennifer Palmer, in the Ice Cube “Barbershop” series that we catch the real growth of Lewis as an actress.
In all three films, Lewis plays Ice Cube’s wife, a woman who supports her man’s dream to become a budding entrepreneur on the South Side of Chicago.
The biggest change for Lewis this time around in “Barbershop: The Next Cut” is that she is able to bring her real-life motherly instinct to a role that commands her to inject such reality as film son Jalen gets a stern tug from the streets.
The motherhood thing has a different meaning to Lewis these days. Motherhood helps gives her a different insight to some of the roles she is currently starring in and will be in the future.
This has allowed Lewis to turn her motherly skills up a notch or two in front of the cameras, something she was not able to do in the other two “Barbershop” movies.
“The advantage this time for me was that this is the first time I actually…when I played a mother I actually was a mother. The first two I wasn’t,” Lewis said.
“So I kind of felt like I was doing a lot more acting in the first two [films], and Jennifer had become a lot closer to who I actually am this time around. It was much easier.”
Easing Lewis through the transition of fictional motherhood in the first two films were Ice Cube and director Malcolm D. Lee. The third time around became more of a natural process for Lewis.
“You know what’s good is between [Ice] Cube and Malcolm Lee, who was our director, they asked me a lot of questions up front. How I feel like as a real mother? How would I handle this particular situation? They gave me a lot input coming from a mother’s perspective.
“I don’t want to give it away for people who haven’t seen it [Barbershop: The Next Cut], but our son this time around, goes through a lot, a lot of things that real kids actually go through, especially on the South Side of Chicago. I actually got to weigh in from a mother’s perspective as opposed to a father. Usually I just sort of support my husband Calvin in the movie, but she (Jennifer) had own her voice this time and her own opinion about how their son is being raised.”
A great part of the appeal of the “Barbershop” series has been the unique application of reality that can engulf a community. Universally, the barbershop, particularly in the black community, have been a haven for sports radio jocks, wannabe politics buffs and the always opinionated regulars who guard the joint with their quick wit and even faster tongue.
As played in the first “Barbershop,” movie, no topic is off limit. When Cedric the Entertainer’s character Eddie went off the rails about civil rights icon Rosa Parks, the topic practically stirred an eagles’ nest of wrath.
In “Barbershop 2: Back in Business,” the subject of gentrification was broached.
Underscoring the third film is the epic violence that has seemed to have gripped the South Side of Chicago without repentance.
“That’s why we did what we did,” Lewis said. “That’s why we sort of took on this subject matter, because of everything that is going on. We wanted to weight in on it. It’s really real out there…we keep it all very real with things going on in Chicago and with things actually happening that way. It was good that we were able to weigh in on it and talk about it.”
Keeping up with that family theme, Lewis tacks on her role as Loretta, a military veteran in “Grandma’s House,” a film based on real-events about one woman recounting life-changing events after moving into her grandmother’s house. The film also stars Loretta Devine, Wendy Raquel Robinson and Coco Jones.
“It’s kind of about how this woman kind of ran her little city in her own way. Through the church, through her family, through her kinds, she kind of brought a community together that was torn apart by drugs and gang violence and different things like that.”
The film wound up being more than just Lewis getting into character. The project gave her a new outlook on how to look at life, Lewis said.
“It gave me a different perspective on how to look at life situations,”Lewis said. “Sometimes we have a singular way of dealing with something. Sometimes you just have to broaden your perspective. But sometimes it takes something to sort of snatch you by the collar and you go, wait a minute; take a look at this, see if it changes your point of view and how you even run your whole life. That’s what it did for me.”