Best known for playing Bernie Mac’s beautiful yet tough wife Wanda for five seasons of the the hilarious “The Bernie Mac Show,” Kellita Smith is a very funny lady. Her early resume reads like a greatest hits of the best sitcoms of the last 20 years, including “Martin,” “The Jamie Foxx Show” and more. Apart from comedy, Miss Smith battled a storm of flying sharks in “Sharkando 3” and a horde of undead zombies on “Z Nation.”
Miss Smith discussed her funny past, what she fears most (it ain’t sharks,) her film “The Man in 3B,” which opens Friday, and her secret passion project.
Question: Was you first real role on TV on “In Living Color”?
Answer: I always do theater. I got really lucky — one of the casting directors who came to one of the productions I did saw me and put me in five sketches on “In Living Color.” In my mind, I was a cast member. [laughs]
Q: What was it like working on “Martin”?
A: There was this amazing camaraderie that made you wanna be a part of it. The guy who played Nipsey, Sean Lampkin, was on the side of the set with a female extra telling her how he was a fitness trainer. Sean is overweight; he has a big stomach. After she walked away I went up to him and said, “Are you serious? Is that your come-on line?”
Q: How about “Malcolm and Eddie”?
A: Eddie Griffin is ridiculous. All the time. I remember with that particular [show], right after I auditioned, I went straight to working on the show. The normal process is you audition, leave and get a phone call a couple days later if you get the part. I finished the audition and they said, “Can you wait for a minute?” Then they said, “We want you to start you today. Follow me, I’ll take you to the set. And actually we are rehearsing for your scene right now.”
Q: “Jamie Foxx Show”?
A: Jamie would say stuff to me like, “Ooh, Kellita, you look great in that outfit. You should steal it.” I thought, “Are you trying to set me up? Or is that code for be in my dressing room later?” He was very generous. He wanted you to be just as funny as him.
Q: What do you remember most about “The Bernie Mac Show”?
A: I was already a fan of his. When “Kings of Comedy” came out, I remember sitting in the theater by myself thinking, “I would love to play with him on-screen.” I auditioned for it twice, and they told me no. It wasn’t until the eleventh hour that I got a call. I remember thinking what would make the difference was if I could read with Bernie. Two minutes later Bernie comes walking up the steps.
Q: What was Bernie Mac like as a person?
A: He a consummate professional. He was from an era of man that is dying. He was gracious to everyone. He embraced everyone. He is always in my heart. I remember before we started working we went to shoot pool, and I beat him in pool. He underestimated me. You know he liked to tell stories. He’s telling these stories while he’s shooting, and then I done ran the table. He said, “Wait a minute! No more stories for you!”
Q: Were you shocked by his death?
A: I knew he was dealing with issues, but I never thought that he would die. He was the kind of man you think can fix anything, accomplish anything. It floored me, broke my heart, because I really thought he would beat it.
Q: How do you choose the roles you play?
A: I wish I get to pick em. [laughs] It’s timing. You have to believe you belong here. Then you have to honor what it means to be an artist. When you do that you realize you are a co-creator with someone who creates bigger than you.
Q: You’re known for doing comedy, but recently you’ve moved into action. Why was that?
A: I think the universe brought it to me. Meeting Sean Lampkin inspired me to dabble in martial arts. I think this move of doing action with “Z Nation” has created a wonderful charge in me.
Q: Did you know how big zombies were when you started on “Z Nation”?
A: I wasn’t really versed in the zombie world. I can’t believe the culture and how big it is. I blows my mind. Comic-con blew my mind. They took over a whole city!
Q: You’ve battled both zombies and then sharks in “Sharknado 3,” Which scare you more?
A: Zombies, because it is a known viral threat to our society. To think that our world could slip into a state of alert like that. If this show is any indication of what’s coming in the future, then I’m not doing it! I could not live moment to moment on high alert. “We’ve got problem? Again?”
Q: Tell us about your latest film, “The Man in 3B.”
A: It is a clever mystery and the twist is really cute. It was so creative that I wanted to do it. Originally they wanted me to play one of the women on the stoop. I said, “Can I play one of the detectives?” They said, “They are both men.” I said, “Do they have to be?”
My dream is to play a role on “Law & Order: SVU.” Playing the detective was a chance in a film to show that I could be more than just a funny lady on the stoop.
Q: What else do you have coming up?
A: My little secret pet project is stand-up. Bernie was grooming me before he passed away. But he didn’t leave me no jokes. [laughs] When he passed I put it down for a minute. I felt the need to honor him. He did think enough of me to say I could do it. Maybe I could channel him a bit. [laughs)
“The Man in 3B” opens in the District Friday.