Tasha Smith has long been a storyteller.
Instead of being in front of the camera, as she has been on everything from Empire to Tyler Perry’s For Better or Worse, Smith has switched seats and is now a director. Her previous credits include P-Valley and 9-1-1, and this fall, she pulled double duty, directing the first two episodes of Fox’s Our Kind of People and doing the honors for three installments of Starz’s new gangster drama BMF.
Smith is also an executive producer on the latter, which tracks the rise of Detroit kingpins the Flenory brothers. BMF premieres this Sunday at 9/8c.
“I just wanted to give a little justice to the story of Big Meech and Terry Flenory and people like them by putting some humanity on it,” Smith tells TVLine. “When you think about crime and crime lords, the fictional Corleones and the real Gottis are embraced. A lot of times, when it comes to the Black community, there is a stigma where other communities are glorified. But BMF shows some empathy and understanding on the way these brothers were brought up in a two-parent home.”
Poverty influenced the Flenorys, Smith argues, and exploring that variable was very important. In part, Smith adds, because she worked as a stripper to make ends meet when she was young.
“Meech and Terry’s father worked two jobs, but he could never get ahead. He could never get a raise,” Smith explains. “Their mother and father were robbing Peter to pay Paul. These brothers watched their parents struggle. So when they were introduced to the dope game, they thought it was the best way to take care of their family and their community. They weren’t looking to become bad guys and do bad things.”
The goal is to explore the complexities of the Flenorys’ story, the Camden, New Jersey native adds.
“I don’t want to villainize these guys, but I also don’t want to celebrate the idea of bringing drugs into the Black community,” Smith reveals. “They were also not the ones who initiated that. A lot of young people feel like the dope game is all they have. It’s like when I was a stripper. I didn’t have any kind of support or the education I needed. I wanted to support my comedy career, and that was the way I was able to do it. I’m just over the stigmatization and everything that celebrates some people and puts others down.”
Peeling back the layers on the unexplored also drew Smith to direct and consult on Our Kind of People, she says. Created by Karin Gist (mixed-ish), who is also the showrunner, the sexy and soapy drama follows the dirty exploits of the Black and filthy rich from Martha’s Vineyard and airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on Fox.
“It was a blessing for me to be able to tell two completely different stories within the same year,” Smith breathlessly recalls. “These two stories couldn’t be further apart. As an artist, to be able to paint the worlds of Our Kind of People and BMF was invaluable because both stories are uniquely American stories that deserve to be told. All of these stories are a part of our testimony.”