Saturday, October 25, 2014

Exclusive Interview with Actress Katlynn Simone (BET "THE GAME")

Committed To The Music And Dancing With Her Dreams
By Belinda Trotter James 

Can you remember when you got your first big break in life?  Was it a dream job or getting a date with your crush.  What were you doing in the year 2011?  Well, for Katlynn Simone Smith that was the year she landed the role as Brittnay Pitts on the hit BET sitcom, The Game.  Most of Katlynn’s fans know her from television however, she is also a singer.  In my exclusive interview, Katlynn reveals what is was like growing up in Texas, getting two big breaks in LA and living her dream…

Sometimes living your dream means you have to work on your birthday.  Katlynn’s birthday happens to be the day before Halloween, but instead of being out partying with the world in costumes, Katlynn will be doing something else. "I actually will be working on my birthday," says Katlynn. “Yes, I will be in the ATL working”. Don’t feel sorry for the birthday girl because she is probably living out her birthday wish to do exactly what she was born to do and that’s sing. "A lot of people say that sucks, but I think it's pretty cool”, explains Katlynn.  “I will have a cake and it will be nice”.

If you’re wondering which came first…  the singing or the acting, Katlynn reveals, “The singing came first and the acting came by chance. The acting was kind of like a bridge to get me out of my shyness. My mom didn't know what to do and she said, ‘Hey let's try this out,” and I fell in love with it as well.”

Katlynn fell so deep in love with acting that she was able to land the role as Megan on the sitcom, The First Family. "The day I moved out to LA I went to an auditioned and I got it!” explains Katlynn.  “That doesn't happen a lot. Things don't usually move that fast, but it was definitely a good sign." 

 Katlynn is right things don't usually move that quickly. Her first big break in acting was for The Game.  Her father read about the audition for The Game in LA. They flew to LA for the day to audition and came right back to Houston.  It took months before she heard that she did get the part.  "While I was working on The Game, I was still living in Houston. I moved to LA a few weeks before my 18th birthday,” explained Katlynn.   As Katlynn explained earlier, the day she moved out to LA was when she auditioned for The First Family and nailed it! “That was the first time I had actually moved to LA on my own and it was scary.  My family helped me move and my mother stayed for about two months to make sure I was okay. Then she said, ‘I got to go back to work.  Please be careful and please be safe’. She comes to visit me every month to make sure I'm okay. Sometimes she even comes unannounced to make sure I'm being good”. We both laughed.

I don't know about Katlynn, but I didn’t want my mother to see what I was up to at 18. Having an unexpected visit from my mom would not be cool. However, Katlynn did not mind at all.  "I love it, I love it and she just left today,” says Katlynn. “I was getting kind of lonely so I was glad that she surprised me with a visit”.

In both The Game and The First Family she plays a daughter character. So I asked her which character is closest to her own personality?  "They both are weirdoes’ in a way,” begins Katlynn.   “With Brittany I understand where she's coming from, but she is very spoiled and she does react not necessarily how I would react in situations. If you watch the show, especially this season that's coming out, you will begin to see a change in her attitude and I feel like maybe I can see her in myself a little bit more as far as the way she's handling things now.  She's not necessarily being that rude person anymore that just wants everything to be terrible for everybody. She's just being a normal human being and letting things go like the divorce and whatever other issues she's had with from the other characters on the show”.  

“On The First Family I definitely guess I am kind of a nerd,” admits Katlynn. I get told that I'm kind of chilled because I do have a shy side about me.  I guess I am a nerd because I love watching sci-fi movies and reading books. I guess that's the only thing I can relate to that character. They are both very different from me”.

Katlynn grew up in Houston, Texas and she said that she loved it.  "I think I took it for granted though because in the last four years of high school I kept saying I can't wait to go to LA, I can't wait to go to LA and I kept saying it because of the things that I was into not because I just had to get away,” explains Katlynn.  “Little did I know I could have stayed because I was still living at home while taping The Game.  It was just that flying back-and-forth was a lot,” says Katlynn.  "I just really wanted to be in the middle of it all. Now that I am out here I love the weather, I love that I can do what I do out here, but I definitely miss the little things of being home like certain types of food. I need some barbecue and crawfish every once in a while. That would be nice. You can't get that out in LA and I definitely miss being around my family”.

Katlynn went to the High School for the Performing  and Visual Arts which I'm sure was an amazing experience. I shared with Katlynn that I went to Fashion Industries High School in New York City and it was the best four years of my life.  These types of schools are  wonderful because it give you a jump-start to think about what you want to do for the rest of your life as a career. I'm sure Katlynn had the same experience performing and doing what she loves in school.  "Yeah before my freshman year started I was homeschooled. I was really into the acting and singing so I really couldn't go to public school. I was homeschooled my whole life by my mother, but I knew I wanted to go to the High School for the Performing  and Visual Arts because my idol Beyoncé went there and I just knew that this thing was going to happen.  I knew which high school I wanted to go to and I knew which college I wanted to attend.  I just knew which steps I wanted to take at an early age."  

Sheesh! Most kids don't figure that out until a year before it's time to go to high school, but Katlynn had been preparing for this for years. "For some reason I think it was because I was homeschooled,” says Katlynn.  “I had doubts about going to that high school every time I had an audition. I thought maybe they wouldn’t have a football team, maybe they wouldn’t have the dances and all that other stuff I'm going to be missing out on and would not be able to experience, but now I laugh at the fact that I was even second-guessing because those were definitely the best days and the best school ever.  I told everybody if they have anything to do with the arts, this school has a fashion department, music, dance and you will love it there." Katlynn also describes lunchtime as being straight out of the movie “Fame”.  

For those of you who have never seen the movie “Fame” Katlynn describes what happens everyday around lunchtime... "So people don't believe me when I say this, but there were many times that... I'm not promoting this, but I would not eat lunch because they would blast the music in the lunchroom and we would dance in the middle of the lunchroom. People would be dancing on the lunch tables, the stairs… everywhere!  We would have a dance party every single day.  It was hard to eat your lunch because we didn't have hours for lunch.  We had a certain time and we had to go right back to class."  By the way if you're wondering about the food, the school lunch was good, but dancing was better.
I'm thinking that Katlynn just started her career at high school however, she has been acting for a long time and where she lives there is a big theater community. Katlynn would be in rehearsals for plays that would take place during the week and on the weekends.  This was one of the reasons why she was homeschooled.  It was definitely a big commitment to participate in the theater.  "It was hard to do school and be fully committed to being in a play. My mom was very capable of teaching me. She's an anesthesiologist and I definitely trusted her, but she was definitely harder on me than other teachers.  It was a good and bad thing because she was going to make sure that I knew things and I do know a lot of things that I don't think I would have necessarily known had I gone to public school; she made sure of that.”

Her singing career has definitely taking off with her single, “Beautiful Lie” which was played on an episode of The Game.  Katlynn wrote the song with Grammy nominated producer/songwriter Cedric “Dabenchwarma” Smith.  “That was actually my first single and it was awesome. I really got into that track and I think when people listen to the track they really get into it because it's just so true and they actually can relate to it because I was writing from things I was actually feeling or heard my friends going through some things at that time. So it was definitely a nice track to do.  "Dancing With My Girls" is my newest single and it was a one-day shoot and at the end of the day we decided to do all the dance scenes. Everyone was starting to get tired and the ground was a little wet however, we pulled it together and got it all done. I'm so thankful for everybody that was a part of that production because everybody put in 100%. The director said, ‘I don't want anything but the best’.”   The best is exactly what she got with this single when she wrote it with Grammy nominated songwriters Michaela Shiloh, Christopher “Chrishan” Dotson, Kyle Christopher Coleman, Erika J Culter, Josh Adam and music production from Grammy nominated producer Yonnie.

“Let Me Go” is the first single she attempted to do when she started working with her manager Danny Jones of the 3 Sixty Music Group.  “We got together with a producer out in Houston and when we heard the track, it sounded really dope so I decided to put my voice on it and people loved it,” says Katlynn.  “I went on a little tour in LA and people really gravitated to the song. It was like opening up the doors so people could see that I am a singer.”

Since Katlynn has been in LA, the concentration is now on getting out an album.  She has been working with different writers and producers. "I have recorded a lot, but now we have to decide putting the best of the best on the EP and making sure that it's exactly what people want to hear. I really want to make something relatable and that is timeless,” explains Katlynn.  I want people to be able to dance or just sit down and listen so that their day can be better. Even if it's a sad song, anytime someone is talking about something you're going through it feels good because you feel like you’re not the only one. So now it's just a process of eliminating and adding right now, but we're definitely working on the EP.”
 Katlynn has worked with some major producers and being a youngster to the industry it could be a little intimidating… "It was a little intimidating, but when I was working with Cedric, I felt really relaxed and comfortable because I look at him like a big brother because he is easy to approach and when I started working with him it was a one-on-one thing,” explains Katlynn.  “I did not have a room full of people who were all meeting you at once and waiting to see what you can do.  When I came to LA it was different because I was working with people who’s name I heard before and I'm thinking to myself that I have to step up my game.”

She goes on to say that producers would invite people to the sessions and there would be all these other writers who have worked with all these producers so of course, it would be a little intimidating. “I felt a little scared about the writing part because I felt my writing wouldn't be on par and then with my singing I felt, ‘Oh my, these people have worked with Brandy and Beyoncé and oh my goodness...’ I talked to my dad about it and he always said, “If you mess up, mess up loud and mess up believing in it.  So that's what I'm going to do from now on. I'm going in there believing in it and knowing what I’m doing is what I can do.”

When writing a song the average person may think that you can listen to the track at your leisure and think of the words to go with it. However, that is not how the world of the songwriter works.  "When I first came out here I thought that’s how it worked as well,” says Katlynn. “I would ask if they could send me the track and I could write at home and come back, but that's not how it works.  However, I really do like the process because it's more genuine when you are right there and you just do it.  Usually you will hear a couple of different tracks and we'll just put our hands in the air and say, ‘This is the track we want to write to.’ I think the process is better that way instead of just getting one track and you have to stick with it. Listening to a bunch of tracks and getting the one that feels good to you; that's the one you pick and usually the melody just comes naturally and based on how the music sounds you know what to write about.... When you hear the melody you will know if it sounds like a dance song or sounds like a love song or a ‘No boy, I don't want you anymore’ song.  Is not that hard."

Not hard! That sounds like major pressure to just come up with words to a melody on the spot with the producer and his posse watching every move you make. What happens if you get writer's block?  "Yes that definitely happens and it is scary the first couple of times, but you get used to it because it’s not necessarily like a freestyle rap,” says Katlynn. “Now I don't know if I could ever do that.  So many great rappers are out here in LA who have to come up with these clever things instantly.”
With all the pressure of being a singer, songwriter and actress, she actually finds time to go to college. "I’ve been taking classes pretty slow because of everything I'm working on however, I should be finishing my sophomore year after the holidays.  My major is in theater and political science.  I’ve always been interested in journalism, but then I ended up changing it to political science,” explains Katlynn.  “I figured it's better to know what you're talking about. I want to know exactly what the world is going through and be able to talk about it.”

“The Game” will be coming back for its last two seasons soon so make sure to watch Katlynn doing her thing on the show. "There will be a lot of exciting things happening,” reveals Katlynn.  “There are a lot of things that will change the direction of the show. I am also working on the album so I will be having a lot of new music coming out.”  Keep up with Katlynn on Twitter and get Dancing With My Girls on iTunes now!! 

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