How actor Algee Smith is using his platform to prove he can do it all
When The Hate U Give made its premiere at the Toronto Film Festival last year, its overwhelmingly positive reception prompted Fox to push the film’s initial release date forward in an effort to bring the film’s important message to audiences sooner than scheduled.
Though national attention on Black Lives Matter has somewhat faded in recent times, the organization continues to empower and inspire many, and its impact on the national discourse of race should not be disparaged.
Indeed, the political organization inspired author Angie Thomas to write a young adult novel that chronicled the life of a young teenager whose best friend is gunned down by white police officer. A little more than a year after the book was published, it was adapted into a screenplay, rendering Black Lives Matter to find a new platform; the big screen.
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The Hate U Give transcends the definition of a dramatization of an instance of anti-Black policing and the narrative is by no means a far stretch from reality.
While assaults on Black life do not only come in the form of police brutality, the film elucidates the effects of the abuses of power and how they reverberate throughout our local communities and instrumentally shape the quotidian.
The Hate U Give takes its title from the concept. T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E. advocated by rapper, Tupac Shakur; a conceptual acronym that the rapper famously had tattooed on his torso.
Tupac explained that “T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E.” actually stands for, “The Hate U Give Little Infants Effs Everybody,” and elaborated that, “What you feed us as seeds, grows up and blows in your face.” In the film, the character Khalil is a devoted fan of Tupac. Likewise, is the actor who plays him; Algee Smith.
In preparing for the role, Smith revealed that he listened to a lot of the artist’s music in an attempt to align himself with Khalil’s experience and get inside the character’s head.
At the same time, in an interview with the Philadelphia Sun, the young rising star admitted,
“To be honest, it wasn’t hard to put myself in that mindset because that’s a reality for me and a lot of my homies. At any given moment, being a young Black man, we could be out here dead by the hands of a police officer, by the hands of the justice system, or thrown in jail by the hands of the justice system quickly. For me, unfortunately, I didn’t have to do a lot of digging or searching to find where I needed to be for that.”
He continued on saying:
“When you’re living in a place where a lot of these young Black men don’t even have fathers in the house or mothers, they grow up with what society is giving as far as what’s in the music and what’s on television. You’re going to act how society has brought you up to it. So, in a sense, you can’t really blame me for acting like this.
Smith knew he wanted to be involved in the project for the film’s social message and its timeliness.
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@thehateugivemovie IS NOW IN THEATERS EVERYWHERE!!!!!!!! I GOT MANY MORE POST COMING SO BRACE YASELF!!! ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ I’m rejoicing right now!!! THANK YOU GOD!!! THANK YOU FAMILY, FRIENDS & FANS FOR UNDERSTANDING THE IMPORTANCE OF SUPPORTING THIS FILM THAT IS TRUTH!! I love y’all!! @george_tillman U R A BEAST OG!!! Shoutout to allllll my cast & crew!! (Even if I forget some!)
The charismatic 24-year-old actor and musician doesn’t take his position in the spotlight lightly and is committed to using his platform to highlight important social issues and create work that resonates with audiences. Smith sees himself and other public figures as important vehicles of change and a site for others to look to for inspiration.
He is also proud and excited to be in Hollywood in the midst of the industry’s critical turn. The industry has undergone a major shakeup, with studios adopting new initiatives of inclusivity both in front and behind the camera. In an interview with i-D, he said,
“I’m just glad that I get to be one of the people who gets to reconstruct it. I’m at this point in my life where I can either stand up for everything I believe in or not do it at all… I’m feeling that urgency inside of myself.”
The Atlanta-raised actor first garnered attention through his portrayal of Ralph Tresvant on BET’s 2017 R&B boy band biopic, The New Edition Story.
Smith followed up his breakout performance with a major role in Kathryn Bigelow’s critically acclaimed, yet underrated, drama, Detroit, in which Smith played a victim of police brutality during the infamous 1967 Algiers Motel incident.
With a musician father and fashion designer mother, art ran deep in Smith’s Michigan and Atlanta, household. In making music at 9 and acting at age 15, Smith credits his family for the sacrifices they made to nurture his talent and artistry that ultimately allowed him to launch his career. In an interview with Wonderland, admits that he still turns to his mother’s business expertise, and enlisted her to be on board his new fashion campaign for Prada.
Smith has also released a 6 track EP, entitled Listen. The fresh R&B record showcases Smith’s incredible vocal ability and range, while his lyricism carries a message of empowerment.
Speaking to BET on the inspiration behind the EP, he explained,
“Bring back a message of love and appreciation for our women, show the beauty invulnerability from a man and give the world some damn good music.”
The 24-year-old actor and musician is showing no signs of slowing down. Smith has now been tapped for the HBO teen drama, Euphoria, that also stars Zendaya.
Penned by scribe Sam Levinson (The Wizard of Lies), the show will also have Drake and Future the Prince serving as executive producers. Euphoria, based on the Israeli series from HOT, follows a group of high school students as they navigate drugs, sex, identity, trauma, social media, love and friendship.