British-born Jamaican model-turned-actress Jodie Turner-Smith has worked her way into national spotlight with her lead role in Queen & Slim – a love story that challenges racism and violence.
Raised in a family of Jamaican immigrants, Turner-Smith is another proof that black people are capable of making it in their field wherever they find themselves in the world.
Recounting her experience, she said: “I’ve always been “other” in all the spaces that I’ve been in. Even when I first moved to America, just the idea that I was a dark-skinned black girl from England with an accent. It’s one thing to be a black girl, but it’s another to be a dark black girl. I was chastised for that.
“I was chastised for the way I spoke. And because of the personality that I have, I immediately began to adapt into being the most accessible form of Jodie for other people”.
“I needed to be more American to other people, and because I wasn’t American, that was the thing that was making me not good enough. I was so triggered that after two of my three auditions, I went into the car and just cried,” she said.
However, that did not deter Turner-Smith from landing her biggest profile role so far, and already so many people love her. She starred as Queen, alongside fellow Brit Daniel in the drama written by Lena Waithe and directed by Melina Matsoukas.
“This is a movie about black survival at all costs,” Turner-Smith said during an appearance on the latest episode of “The Big Ticket”. According to her, the project is by far the hardest experience of her growing career.
The 33-year-old worked as a model and has been acting in Hollywood since 2013, but her lead role in “Queen & Slim” has attracted the attention of mainstream audiences.
Speaking about her role, she told Essence: “All these powerful women are doing this project, and I was like, How do I get invited? I fell maddeningly in love with the script.”
According to her, she sees herself in her role as Queen. The drama portrays the life an attorney who has spent her life defending people facing the death penalty, black men and women. Queen and Slim are in Ohio, where capital punishment is still legal, and basically, she goes on a first date with Slim, which isn’t particularly memorable, and on the way home, they get pulled over by the police, and they end up killing the police officer. Instead of turning themselves in, they decide to go on the run.
Described as someone with a great presence and charming beauty, Turner-Smith began her career playing a siren on HBO’s True Blood. She showed up in projects like TNT’s The Last Ship, quite recently she caught attention for her role in the George R. R. Martin novella Nightflyers.
“The fact that I was cast in a show to play a female lead and I’m the dark-skinned Black woman with short hair, it’s so incredible,” she said of that series. “The part was a confidence boost as well. It just gave me a little bit of wind beneath my wings to really go and make this my own.”
Born in Peterborough, Northamptonshire, England to Jamaican parents, Tuner-Smith moved to the United States after graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2008. She currently lives in Los Angeles.
“I think of L.A. as my home now, in large part because I became the entity that I am in L.A.,” she said in an interview. “I always say to people that my coming-of-age happened in L.A., the unraveling of the person I was pretending to be for a long time, and then finding of the person I feel like I now am.”
The Jamaican screen goddess with two beautiful kids used to work as a banker in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania until she came in contact with musician Pharrell Williams who reportedly influenced her to become a model.
Williams’ influence on her has eventually paid off.
Check out the Queen & Slim trailer: