Algee Smith is an all around entertainer. With his melodic vocals and lyrical raps, he most definitely catches the ears of the listeners and the eyes of the views with his amazing acting skills. Smith shared his emotional thoughts on police brutality in his new role as Khalil Harris in ‘They Hate U Give’. As well as past roles and releasing new music for his fans.
Q: You started off acting at a very young age, tell us about your background on your acting career as a kid?
A: Yes, my background is in the entertainment and acting period. I actually started doing music first before acting at about nine or ten years old. I didn’t start acting until I was about 15. My music manager took me to an acting agent, who he was very familiar with, and on the first day, I met her she signed me. I didn’t really know too much about the business and I’m still learning right now to this day, but she took a risk. She saw something in me and ever since that day I’ve just been navigating, acting, and doing music all together.
Q: What was your first experience hands-on in your acting career?
A: My first experience hands-on was when I got in the studio with music. I was being very hands on I was already kind of learning about the business even that young. My dad was a professional musician so he was kind of forcing me to kind of be hands-on and do everything and learn everything for myself. With the acting as well, you have to be hands-on with learning scripts and knowing movements, knowing placements, and just studying.
Q: So I do remember your role as ‘Da Boss’ on Disney’s Channel ’Let It Shine’ and I must say you got skills. Did you write those lyrics yourself?
A: (Laughs) Nah, if I had written that rap I would’ve won, but you saw that I lost. If I had written it things would’ve come out differently. Yeah, that was a really cool experience. That movie actually was my first movie, movie you know and see how a real movie production runs you know having to go offset. I was still a teenager at the time and had to go do homework on set. You know it was a really good intro experience for me.
Q: With that movie being a musical, how did you land that role and what was it like working alongside Trevor Jackson, Brandon Mychal Smith, and ’Everybody Hates Chris’ Tyler James Williams in that scene?
A: That was a great experience! At the time we were all, I mean, of course, I looked it up to Tyler James Williams because ‘Everybody Hates Chris’ of course, but everybody else like Trevor and Brandon. You know like it was just there weren’t in any ego trip like that because everybody was coming in with an equal mindset like we’re just here to get a job done but of course Trevor had a lot of energy as he still does to this day. It was good vibes on set, the directors of Disney as a whole just made it a good thing. Coco Jones came through she did kill her part in the movie. So everything worked supposed the way it was supposed to.
Q: Let’s talk about your role as the Ralph Tresvant in The New Edition Story, how did that role impact your career?
A: Man! How did it not impact my career! First of all playing as those legends alone and stepping into the responsibility of carrying the weight of so many people knowing these guys. Knowing who they are and so many die-hard fans. That’s a lot of responsibility so when those fans watch it they have to feel like they’re actually watching their group. So it was a lot of pressure, but the outcome of it. After we did it and it came out to be I can honestly say a classic. We weren’t thinking what we were doing it all let’s make a classic putting our hearts into it but it definitely opened up a lot of doors and exposed me and my talents to a wider part of the world and me probably on a platform where I can do nothing but continue to grow.
Q: If you had the opportunity to be in another biopic movie, who would it be and why?
A: It would be myself because I want to tell my story. (Laughs) But honestly, if I were to play somebody else…I’m not really sure. Probably Will Smith, but I don’t think I’m tall enough. I always hear that I look like him and we have similar energies. They can give me some platforms in my shoes and we could make it work. I’ll play in a Will Smith biopic. People also say that I look like Larenz Tate, that would be something interesting to see. He still has a great career. I don’t know, but I am up for anything. You never know what roads you could take on and end up doing well in it, you never realize what you can do.
Q: After that, you starred in the movie ‘ Detroit’ and that movie was so powerful. How did you prepare yourself for the role of Larry?
A: Yes, a great question! So for the preparation for Detroit, it was actually very unconventional because of the director Kathryn Bigelow. She didn’t want me to get the full script so almost halfway done shooting the whole movie. Her whole thing was she wanted me to come on set and just live there. She didn’t want me to try to prepare days or months before she didn’t want me to have the scripts. She wanted me to come in and act of pure instinct alone so the preparation process was very different and unconventional than a lot of other processes that I’ve been through. Although I appreciate her because she let me improve and let me find it within myself so that was great!
Q: You also were featured on the soundtrack for Detroit with the song ”Grow”, emotional might I add and you sang that song so well. Where did you get such a beautiful voice from? Does your dad or mom sing?
A: Thank you! So yeah that was a huge blessing in itself having “Grow” hit the Detroit soundtrack. I remember when I got a phone call I was actually in Chicago on the set of a T.V. show called “Electric Dreams” and I got a phone call and Kathrynn’s assistant was like, “Hey, so about that song you did? Kathryn really loves it and if you want to put on the soundtrack!” I was just tripping out and I almost started crying because that was the first song I’ve ever had to be featured on a soundtrack. Yeah I think the musical talent came from constant work because I always didn’t have the voice that I have and I’m still growing I’ll have a voice that I want to even to this day so is it just the constant effort because like I said me and my pops in the studio you know in pushing ourselves to be better.
Q: ”The New Edition Story” and ”Detriot” did receive an award if I’m not mistaken. Tell us about that?
A: Yes so The New Edition Story, I think we received an NAACP award and Detroit did as well. I believe we received a BET awards as well I’m not sure. They need to give us one! (Laughs) But anytime like getting that kind recognition is always cool to me, but that’s not what I do for personally but people sit back and you know look at you working and nominated because they love you that much or touch them or so they put it in the category that they feel they feel you know very honoring. So that’s a pretty dope thing to have you know.
Q: So moving forward on with your music career like you said you have been singing as a kid, you rap as well right?
A: Yeah! Yeah! Dabble in all of that there! (Laughs)
Q: If you could remember, what was the first rap you wrote?
A: Oh my god! Yes, I do. Well, I actually remember the first rap I recorded. My voice was very high pitched. It was like a Christian rap and it was like, “We some riders, we some riders” (Laughs) it was something like that. I don’t know what I tried to do, but it was me figuring it out myself. Hearing my voice is so high it was like man, how do I get my voice deeper? So I tried to start recording myself first thing in the morning when I woke up.
Q: Who or what is the inspiration behind your music?
A: The inspiration behind my music is my life. Specifically about my album coming out an A.T.L.A. that is based on is a true story of me taking a leap of faith moving from Atlanta. Coming out to LA, I gave myself a 30-day cushion to come on and make something happen. And I was out here struggling for money. I was sleeping on my friend’s couch trying to get money to pay for Uber’s, to eat, and all of that. So by the end of those 30 days. I ended up getting a call saying that I got booked for The New Edition Story and my life has never been ever since. I have never been able to leave LA. That’s the kind of story that I’m telling with my album. So I think my life just pretty much inspires my music.
Q: You recently dropped a mixtape called “Flight Delayed”, that’s on SoundCloud make sure you guys go check it out, give us more insight on the mixtape. From the concept of it to the tracks, production, everything.
A: So the mixtape “Flight Delayed”, like I said the album ATLA. The fans have been waiting on ATLA for a little minute now. So I had to you know give him some more music to hold him over right now but also music that I care about as well you know that was and that was just kind of like sitting there so I decided to put this project together of the songs that I enjoy. You know metaphorical call it “Flight Delayed” since the album is called ATLA Before we get it to the album we just got delayed flight that’s pretty much all it was.
Q: Is “Flight Delayed” like a preview to your album coming out called “ATLA”?
A: Yet or its honestly just like you know a gift to my fans and people that waiting for the album. I wouldn’t even say it’s a preview but I’m saying take this and so I give you the whole cake.
Q: The new movie you’re in “The Hate U Give”, comes out October 19th. I’m extremely looking forward to seeing that movie, but looking at the trailer my heart stopped when I saw what happened to your character and I must ask, with all the real-life incidents that have taken place with police brutality, how did you embody this role?
A: Very good question so I embodied this role as Khalil Harris in “The Hate U Give”. Simply by honestly, it wasn’t that hard which is unfortunate to say because of such a timely manner that we live in and how the surroundings reflecting it right now. I didn’t have to go far for inspiration, Khalil is who I had to understand as a person. He was someone that was very conflicted and he had to make a decision to provide for his family or just sit back and let life run over him. This is a guy who’s 17 years old, he sees his grandmother, who starts battling with cancer, his little brother 10 years old, his mother strung out on drugs, and he has no father in the house. So he had to step up and be a man pretty early in his life so that’s what I had to understand. The dynamics of understanding his innocence, but also understanding the manly side and you know the testosterone side of ”I got to provide my family”.
Q: What this role challenging to you?
A: I wouldn’t say it was challenging, but it was a lot of weight. It was a lot of pressure because I’m stepping up putting myself in a row that many mothers have seen their sons or many brothers have seen their brothers in situations we’ve seen countless of times, so I’m taking on some responsibility. You know of us standing in a place and being a vessel to speak for those people that are going through that so it was a lot of just a lot of pressure and a lot of weight.
Q: Besides the music and new movie coming out, what else can we expect from you? Maybe a tour? Because I’ve seen you perform at certain events.
A: (Laughs) There will absolutely be an Algee Smith tour that is coming very soon. Right now, I’m just really focused on making sure that my album is the right way so when I put it out and I go on yours. We’re sharing that experience you know that you guys know the music just as well as I know it. And that I got everything together so I know that we are planning, but it’s just in the right time. It’s definitely coming, trust me!